The mid-'80s: Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) and his wife Veronica Corningstone (Applegate) co-anchor the national news in New York. But when Veronica is promoted and Ron fired, they separate, reducing Ron to drunkenly insulting dolphins while compering at SeaWorld. Then Ron is offered an opportunity in a brave new venture: 24-hour, rolling news...
Anchorman was a happy accident. A bunch of funny guys in ’70s duds (and one not-very-funny guy in a cowboy hat) titting about in absurd, Saturday Night Live-style sketches for 90-odd minutes, its broad beads of comedy strung loosely on a smart plot about sexual equality in the workplace. The existence of an entire movie’s worth of cut material (Wake-Up Ron Burgundy) was proof of just how ‘throw it all and see what sticks during the edit’ director Adam McKay and co-writer/’tache-in-chief Will Ferrell’s process was. But, Zeus-dammit, it worked. Eventually. A mild initial reaction gradually built, over a decade, to a fevered cult. “I love lamp,” and so forth.
Ten years on, we’re now presented with the same creative team’s attempt to recreate that accident, like mad child-scientists throwing the exact same hair products and small mammal parts into the bubbling saucepan after their magical dinosaur-transmogrification potion ran out last Tuesday. Except, where last time they transformed Billy’s kid sister into a lean, screeching velociraptor, this batch results in a huffing mammoth.
Clocking close to two hours, The Legend Continues feels stretched, with one entire segment (involving a lighthouse and a shark named Doby) particularly screaming for deletion. This smacks of an over-confidence on the part of McKay and Ferrell — as does their overplaying of the Brick card. Steve Carell’s mentally challenged weatherman offered several of the first film’s highlights, but here his presence becomes uncomfortable, especially when paired romantically with Kristen Wiig’s disappointing she-Brick Chani.
Where Ron is (and remains) a hilariously pompous buffoon who can neither keep up with his environment nor filter his half-formed thoughts, with Brick it starts to feel like we’re being invited to laugh at the genuinely afflicted, especially as we watch the poor guy wrestling autistically with his welling emotions.
There is also a lot of gag retreading. This is, to some degree, understandable crowdpleasing, a recognition of the loyal repeat-watch audience. And the new take on the quickly escalating news-team battle is so flagrantly, nonsensically epic and big-cameo-slathered it could be generously read as a comment on the way sequels scramble so madly to deliver ‘bigger, better, more’. But at other times it feels like writer-room box-ticking: Autocue mishap… Brian’s secret man-cupboard… Baxter’s subtitles… an actual sex panther…
Fortunately, though, there are still considerable spurts of laughter, primarily when Ferrell/Ron is on screen and in the newsroom, unwittingly sparking a revolution in newscasting through his own obtuseness. Believe it or not, in amidst all the condom and fried-bat jokes, Anchorman 2 actually has a point to make: about the importance and value of good, investigative journalism and how the corporatisation of news is irreparably harming democracy. Stick that in your jazz flute and toot it, Rupert Murdoch!
Patchy and in need of a rigorous edit, but amid all the weeds there is some ripe comedy - satire, even - for the plucking.