Monday 19 May 2014

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Who can believe it’s been nearly ten years since Anchorman came out? The 2004 movie – a pastiche of 1970s culture and cheesy, American local news – was an unexpected hit and has become one of the most quotable and best-loved comedy films of all time. It was a revelation: I remember watching it on three consecutive nights in student halls, all with the same people, and we never once failed to laugh at its zany humour and surprising twists. Sure, we were probably drunk, and had our DVD budget been bigger we might have broadened our horizons a bit. But my point still stands: it takes a pretty special film to hold up to such obsessive repeat viewing.

So, can last year’s Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues ever hope to inspire the same feeling of “I must watch this again!” – or is it a cheap cash-in on a comedy classic?

Anchorman 2 is set seven years after the original, continuing the story of loveably incompetent newsman Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his wife and evening news co-anchor Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). Ron and Veronica have settled down and had a son since the last movie (six-year-old Walter, played by Judah Nelson) but they haven’t given up their dream of hitting the big time – so when their network’s nightly news anchor Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford) suddenly announces his retirement, the pair jump at the chance to meet with him.

Tannen gives Veronica the promotion she’s always dreamed of, making her the new nightly news host, but Ron ends up being fired as a result of his constant on-air goofs. As you might expect, this drives a wedge between Ron and Veronica: the couple splits, Veronica finds herself a new psychiatrist boyfriend (Greg Kinnear), and Ron is forced to host demonstrations at Sea World to make ends meet. Things look pretty bad for Ron, until a news producer from “GNN”, the world’s first 24-hour news network, approaches him and offers him a second chance.

Ron assembles his beloved news team – comprised of Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Champ Kind (David Koechner), and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) – and winds up taking over GNN’s 2am graveyard slot. This leads to a bitter rivalry between Ron and hotshot primetime reporter Jack Lime (James Marsden) and, in the heat of an argument, Ron throws down a wager over ratings. What follows is an intelligent and surprisingly cutting take-off of 24-hour “rolling” news channels, as Burgundy resorts to showing live car chases and animal stories to try to keep people glued to GNN through the night.

Of course, this is Anchorman, not The Newsroom, so the film’s predictable, by-the-numbers storyline is peppered with irreverent humour and bizarre twists and turns. And yes, there’s plenty more cartoonish silliness from simpleminded, loveable weatherman Brick – who finds a love interest in fellow simpleton and GNN office worker Chani, played by the fantastic Kristen Wiig.

Fans of the original Anchorman will be pleased to hear its sequel is every bit as funny as the original. That said, it never quite manages to recapture the magic of its predecessor. The writers have sprinkled Anchorman 2’s two hours with just the right number of call backs to the first film, never falling into the trap of shoving tired jokes and catchphrases in our faces every few seconds. And yet, much of the smart plotting that made Anchorman work so well has been lost. This is a film that flits aimlessly between gags, only occasionally remembering it’s supposed to be a movie and throwing in some random exposition. For the most part, it just holds up different things and says, “Look! This thing is funny!” And usually it is… it just comes off looking more like a 70s-themed sketch show than a cohesive story.

To put it bluntly: No, this film isn’t as good as the original. Will I watch it again one day? Probably. Would it stand up to being watched three times in a row? Probably not. It’s a solid comedy film built on pretty shaky foundations, and while long-time fans will be happy just to get their hands on some new jokes, it’s a little hard to recommend it to anyone else.

Anchorman 2 hangs up its mic and leaves with a respectable 3/5.


Mike Lee

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues at CeX

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