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Non-Review Review: Anchorman 2 – The Legend Continues

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is perhaps twenty minutes too long, and indulges in a little bit too much of the nostalgia common in comedy sequels during its final act, but it’s a movie with its heart in the right place. More message-driven than its direct predecessor, and much more of an ensemble piece, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is an enjoyable example of the sorts of cringe comedy that made the original such a cult classic. While it might not measure up perfectly, it ranks quite highly among the annals of comedy sequels.

Jumping for joy?

Jumping for joy?

When it comes to comedy sequel, it’s often unfair to invite direct comparison to the original film. Producing an original comedy is an entirely different game from producing a sequel. Comedy sequels are a much more complicated ball game than any other sort of sequels. More than just ensuring consistent tone or the same set of characters, comedy sequels often find themselves fighting hard against recycling the same gags and the same set pieces.

Comedy sequels go for much more than the sly nod or the affectionate wink that we expect from action or science-fiction or thriller sequels. Think of how much of Airplane II or Wayne’s World II were recycled from the original break-out comedies. So it’s fair to argue that Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues needs to be measured against a different yardstick than Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy.

"I killed a guy with trident!"

“I killed a guy with trident!”

After all, the original film was produced with no expectations. It didn’t have to carry any recurring gags going into it, it didn’t have to work in any catchphrases to satisfy the audience. The weakest gags in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues feel like they were inserted to ensure that sense of familiarity, riffing on the best gags in the first film with a variety of cameos and special appearances.

And yet, you can understand why those scenes were included, albeit pushed towards the end of the film. The audience is waiting for them. The audience is anticipating them. So the film feels obligated to deliver on them. And it’s hard to begrudge Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues for making these choices. They are, after all, only reasonable and fair. They are only giving the audience what they expect, with the acceptance that this restricts the sequel in a way that the original simply wasn’t.

Still a driving force?

Still a driving force?

And yet, despite that, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is a solidly entertaining comedy for most of its runtime. There are some absolutely brilliant gags, and some wonderfully memorable phrases, even if it’s unlikely that “she’ll never see you coming” will be as memetic as “sixty percent of the time, it works every time” or even “made with bits of real panther.” There are moments of madcap brilliance here, and the cast throw themselves into their old roles with remarkable gusto.

While Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is undoubtedly centred around Ron Burgandy, it is much more of an ensemble piece. Most obviously, there’s an introductory sequence where Ron has to reassemble his News Team, but the whole movie seems to have more time for Brick and Champ and Brian. In particular, Brick’s plot is so expanded that he even gets a nice romantic subplot.

Making the news...?

Making the news…?

This decision is understandable. The cast are all much more recognisable than they were when the original Anchorman was released. Steve Carrell in particular is a comedy leading man in his own right, while Paul Rudd has demonstrated that he can be a reliable leading man in ensemble comedies. Even David Koechner has become a much more recognisable face to audiences than he would have been back in the days of Anchorman.

And yet, despite this, there’s a sense that Anchorman 2 is a little over-stuffed. It’s a little too ambitious in places. It’s no longer the free-form comedy that it was in the original, it’s much more controlled and structured. Anchorman famously had enough deleted material to spawn its own (terrible) spin-off movie, but that was a testament to just how wonderfully chaotic the production was. Anchorman 2 feels so tightly controlled that it seems unlikely it could spawn anything as expansive as Wake Up, Ron Burgandy.

Team work?

Team work?

Still, there are moments when it works quite well. Anchorman 2 is much more message-driven than its predecessor, suggesting that only the ego-centric and petty mind of Ron Burgandy could invent 24-hour news as it exists today. The film’s plot sees the news team recruited to work at a thinly-veiled analogue for a certain major news broadcaster, owned by a wealthy Australian keen to exploit the opportunities presented by a live feed into people’s homes.

It is a little on-the-nose, much more than anything in the original Anchorman. And yet it’s hard not to admire even the simplistic political commentary on the news industry. “Why do we have to tell people what they need to hear?” Ron muses at a brainstorming session. “Why can’t we tell them what they want to hear?” While Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is hardly subtle, it’s an endearing idea for the film to address, and it does a lot to argue that the sequel is more than just a retread of the much-loved original.

Dialing it up?

Dialing it up?

Along the way, there’s plenty of opportunities for all sorts of gags. There’s physical comedy, a little gross out humour, a significant amount of cringe comedy. One of the central appeals of the original Anchorman was that it had something to appeal to almost everybody. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues upholds that tradition, with scenes like an ill-fated encounter with cruise control, an exposé inside the “Whammy!” fried chicken industry and Ron’s flirtations with disability and interracial romance, among other things.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues doesn’t quite measure up to the original, but that’s not really the league that it is playing in. Instead, it ranks quite highly on the league table of comedy sequels.

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6 Responses

  1. Yet another positive review. I really need to see the first so I can also enjoy the sequel. I think you’ve finally pushed me over the edge. I’m going to see the first later today, or at least this weekend.

  2. Good review Darren. I’m glad that this movie didn’t try to do what most comedy sequels do, and that’s over-do a lot of the same jokes that everybody loved from the first. However, I do have to say, while it wasn’t nearly as strange or hilarious as the first, it still made me laugh a heck of a lot more than I expected it to make me.

    • Yep. I actually liked it more when it was doing its own thing rather than trying to ape the first film, which – as a note – is an easy trap for a comedy sequel.

  3. Good review.

    I enjoyed the movie but I think in some respects it is a step back from the original. Christina Applegate brought a certain something to the first movie as a straight woman (who isn’t so above it all) that anchored a lot of the zaniness and gave Ron and the others someone to bounce off. Her reduced screen time leaves a void the film doesn’t quite manage to fill, especially because there is no consistent female voice: Meagan Good is all over the place (is she a sane, principled journalist ala Veronica or a corrupt corporate stooge or even a boss who sexually harrases her employees?) and as wonderful as Kristen Wiig is Chani is a one note character.

    • I think you’re right, Ross. It isn’t quite as good as the first (and I doubt it will hold up as well), but I respect the movie’s willingness to try its own thing. It’s a lot more plot- and issue-driven than the original, which makes it a bit heavy-handed, but helps give a sense that those involved are at least doing more than simply going back to the same well. (Even though, it being a sequel, they definitely are – but you get my drift, I hope.)

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