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Review: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

Directed by: Adam McKay

Premise: A sequel to the 2004 film. Set in the 1980s, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his news team join the staff of a twenty-four hour news network.

What Works: The first Anchorman did not suggest a sequel but the filmmakers have managed to craft a picture that works and is a worthy continuation of the franchise. Anchorman was a satire in which a 1970s all-male television news team faced the addition of a woman to the on-air talent pool. That movie sent up the frat house atmosphere of newsrooms then (and now) and was distinguished by a steady stream of successful gags and a cast of memorable characters. The filmmakers of Anchorman 2 have retained virtually everything that worked about the original picture and in many instances have improved it. The sequel takes place in the early 1980s and finds Ron Burgundy and his pals anchoring a twenty-four hour news network. Just as the original film sent up the artificiality and absurd fluff that often plagues local news, Anchorman 2 satirizes the peculiarities of around-the-clock coverage and posits Ron Burgundy as the originator of the mindless sensationalism and disingenuous piousness of cable news. While this film isn’t exactly Network, it does manage to make relevant jabs at the news industry while having a laugh and the film has a lot of them. Over the past year the comedy genre has been beleaguered by disappointments like Grown Ups 2, Identity Thief, and Movie 43 and so Anchorman 2 is the best comedy release of 2013 by default. But even in much better company, Anchorman 2 would still impress. Virtually every scene has at least one line or gag that is a howler and the comedy is so consistent that the film flows from one laugh to another. One of the reliable sources of humor in Anchorman 2 are the cameos and the film has some especially notable guest appearances by a variety of performers. These could be distracting but the cameos are used just enough and in the right places. The filmmakers of Anchorman 2 also fix some of the problems of the first movie, especially its erratic tone, which is much smoother and more consistent in the sequel than in the original film.

What Doesn’t: Anchorman 2 is an example of “the same but different” approach to sequel filmmaking. Anyone familiar with the original Anchorman will recognize a lot of the gags and set pieces in this film. In many cases they are done better in the sequel but quite frequently it is obvious that the filmmakers have used the original Anchorman as a template and made minor changes. Because nearly a decade has passed since the previous film and because the revisions generally improve the original conceit, Anchorman 2’s familiarity gets a pass. But the sequel is inferior to its predecessor in its narrative. The first film had a simple but discernable story of Ron Burgundy’s relationship with his female co-anchor, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). That gave the first movie a narrative shape, even if it was just a framework around which to hang the gags. Anchorman 2 does have a narrative but it is much thinner than the first film and the movie often gives the impression that it is a series of comic set pieces instead of a coherent story. To be fair, a lot of great comedies have a loose structure, including Caddyshack, Duck Soup, and Dumb & Dumber. But the story of Anchorman 2 is so rickety that it wears out by the end.

Bottom Line: The goal of a movie like Anchorman 2 is to make the audience laugh and the filmmakers have accomplished that in spades. It would have been preferable if the filmmakers took more risks, were more original, and presented a more coherent story but the movie does exactly what it is intended to do.

Episode: #471 (December 29, 2013)