a n c h o r m a n 2
18th December 2013
24th December 2013
We’re giant fans of Anchorman here, which I don’t think is particularly controversial. A modestly budgeted Will Ferrel vehicle, it quickly garnered cult status, mostly down to Ferrel’s superb rendering of the misogynistic, anachronistic man himself, Ron Burgundy. A man completely at home with laying claim to a level of talent he clearly doesn’t have, surrounded by oafish, borderline mentally retarded lunatics who make up his News Team. Throw in a sentient dog and the beautiful Christina Applegate and you have a hit.
It seems inevitable then that the sequel should arrive with twice the budget and twice the number of bonkers cameos. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues comes with a weight of mostly cult expectation and a series of variously amusing viral adverts that see Ron discuss everything from console wars to RPGs. But what does the actual movie bring us?
Anchorman 2 picks up some years from part 1 and finds Ron and Veronica happily married, presenting the news in New York and living up the 70’s lifestyle. Rumour reaches them that Emmy award winning news anchor Mack Tannen (a superbly creepy cameo from Harrison Ford) may be about to throw in the towel and they are whisked off up to Mack’s office for what might be the creepiest selection interview you’ve ever seen. Needless to say, Ron gets fired, Veronica gets promoted and Ron lays down the usual ultimatum. Veronica goes with the career and Ron is once again cast into the wilderness. Fortunately for Ron, the spectre of 24 hour news is on the horizon and soon Ron is headhunted by a fledgling 24 hour news channel (complete with black - or as Ron would have it ‘African and American’ boss). In true Muppets fashion, Ron heads out to get the team back together and soon they’re driving an RV through respectable news in order to achieve ratings that will avoid Ron suffering a career-threatening lost bet with rival anchor Jack Lime (James Marsden).
On some levels, the movie is attempting to be a scathing satire on the 24 hour news culture where anything is news so long as it moves fast enough to keep the attention of the lowest common denominator as he sits on his couch comfortably numb. Ron’s team achieve success by quickly grasping the fact that there isn’t enough exciting news to keep rolling for 24 hours so the best thing to do is either just shove novelty stories up there or, better yet, claim that pretty much anything is news and talk it up in such fashion. The sequence where Ron invents the live car chase news section is particularly inspired as Burgundy talks up a slow speed car chase for all it’s worth in order to distract viewers from Veronica’s in depth interview with Yasser Arafat.
Where the film is less successful is in its attempted expansion of the characters. Quite simply, the more time you spend with these guys and the more you get to know them, the less likeable they are. This is particularly true of Ron as his outrageous behaviour, particularly towards his new boss and his long suffering wife starts to become somewhat uncomfortable. The scene where Ron is first introduced to Meagan Good’s Linda Jackson is basically a rip-off of Austin Powers’ mole gag, with the word ‘black’ subbed in for ‘mole’. It was hilarious in Austen Powers but a second run-through involving race (all be it in a film set firmly in the 70’s) just comes across as squirm-inducing. Steve Carell’s Brick suffers similar issues, being far more hilarious not comprehending the chromakey nature of his new weather forecasts than he is awkwardly dating Kristen Wiig’s clearly mentally challenged Chani.
The more is less issue extends to most of the movie. It’s clearly 20 minutes too long, adding a wholly unnecessary 25 minutes to the original’s running time, during which Ron spends most of his time hiding out at an isolated lighthouse, blind from a vindictive ice-skating accident, hand rearing a local great white shark pup. Bonkers, right? Not really, it’s too much and although Ron’s blindness occasionally raises decent laughs, it feels like the whole section has been tacked onto the end of the film.
It’s probably futile trying to critique Anchorman 2 against anything other than its predecessor and sadly on that measure it is a disappointment. The story is pretty much a re-tread of the original, a lot of the jokes re-surface and the characters aren’t personable enough to inspire your indulgence. It fires occasionally and is most successful when the 24 hour news satire element is played up but too many of the re-cycled jokes don’t hit their mark. The now traditional face off between a variety of news teams is twice as big as it was previously and is well worth seeing for the History Channel turning up (genuinely laugh out loud funny) but the whole thing misses far more targets than it hits. Worth a look for some fine comedy moments, it’s just a shame that the whole thing couldn’t have been shorter and well, classier.
Check out the trailer here.