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ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (2013) review

December 24, 2013

 

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written by: Adam McKay and Will Ferrell

produced by: Judd Apatow, Adam McKay and Will Ferrell

directed by: Adam McKay

rating: PG-13 (for crude and sexual content, drug use, language and comic violence)

runtime: 119 min.

U.S. release date: December 18, 2013

 

Highly quotable and uniquely insane, 2004’s “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” was an infectious comedy that didn’t quite become a hit the summer it was released. I didn’t catch up with it until 2006 and when I did, I couldn’t get enough. It remains a hilarious and heavy-handed comedy that satirized a profession worth making fun of. Granted, many just didn’t find Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s brand of comedy all that funny, but I was busting a gut in the same way I had when I saw the first “Austin Powers” movie. Now, after almost a decade, everyone is back together for a sequel. Maybe too much time has passed or it’s just impossible to recapture the hilarity of the first one – (or is it me, maybe I’ve changed?) – either way, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” is an overall disappointment.

That’s not to say it’s not funny. It is – in spurts. There are laugh-out-loud moments in the first, say – 45 minutes of the movie, come to think of it. Granted, it’s not going to be as classic as the first movie (some would seriously argue giving that movie such praise, but I hold to it), but what comedy sequel has been just as funny or funnier? None come to mind. Comedy sequels usually rely on putting a slightly different spin on what worked before, capitalizing on the laughs earned by the surprises and attitude of the first movie.

Maybe I just need to give it time though. After all, in my experience Adam McKay’s comedies (“Step Brothers” and “The Other Guys”) have had to marinate my funny bone for a while, requiring some time after the initial viewing or repeat viewings, in order for me to fully appreciate his wacky brand of humor.

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The sequel picks up a few years after the last movie. Thanks to the inimitable narrator, actual anchorman legend, Bill Kurtis (who’s voice anchored the first film), we learn it’s a new decade: 1980. Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are now living in New York City, with their 6-year-old boy, Walter (Judah Nelson), as they co-anchor a reputable major news network. Veteran news anchor, Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford) informs the co-anchors of his retirement, promoting Veronica, making her the first female nightly news anchor in television history and firing Ron, due to his countless on-air screw-ups. To say Ron doesn’t take this well is an understatement, as he dishes out the ultimatum for Veronica to choose the job or him.

This all takes place as a sort of prologue, with the movie’s title appearing on-screen immediately after what transpires. It makes sense, considering Ron Burgundy is at his most hilarious when he’s a downtrodden alcoholic mess. Having left his wife and son, we now find Ron back in San Diego, working as a host a dolphin show in Sea World. Since he has a mic in one hand and a drink (probably Scotch) in another, you know that doesn’t last long.

He’s approached by producer, Freddie Sharp (Dylan Baker, looking like a cut character from “Boogie Nights”), who offers Ron an anchor gig for GNN (Global News Network), which is about to launch an unprecedented 24-hour news network. Reuniting his trusted news team (in one of the movie’s funniest sequences), Champ Kind (David Koechner), Brian (Paul Rudd) and Brick (Steve Carell), Ron heads back to New York City with renewed vigor, only to find that he’s just another fish in the news anchor pond. His ego is challenged by a younger anchor out of Chicago, Jack Lyme (a cocky James Marsden with a glossy sheen) while both his racism and manhood is challenged by GNN’s manager, Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), a confident African-American woman.

 

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Despite being given the graveyard shift, Ron and his crew boost ratings by giving viewers what they want – good news. Ron waxes patriotic on America, Champ shows a montage of home-runs, Brian does an expose on the best vaginas ever and Brick actually gets out and reports on the weather. All is right with the boys – Brick even finds his soul mate in the equally socially awkward, Chani (Kristen Wiig), a GNN clerk. Things are looking good. But, this is Ron Burgundy, who can’t ride success without experiencing challenges and this manly man-child will hit rock bottom – yet again – before he (hopefully) grasps what his life priorities should be.

The bulk of “Anchorman 2” is McKay and Ferrell providing what they think the audience wants – at least, an audience who enjoyed the first movie. More of the same can be good, as long the characters are given new situations and atmosphere. The problem here is, Ron Burgundy as a husband and father just isn’t that funny or, well, fitting. He’s a free stallion who is better off single, without an offspring (because, honestly, the kid offers nothing in this picture but dead weight), embracing the incorrigible sexist, racist and ego-stroking character Ferrell is so great at playing.

There’s no need for a subplot involving Ron going blind and secluding himself in a lighthouse. It’s forced, unoriginal and dead on arrival. I don’t want to see extensive sequences of his wife and kid coming to his aid to help him get back on his feet – that’s what his dog, Baxter (a Terrier mix played this time by a dog named Quince) is for! These unfunny scenes just fell flat to me and much to my dismay, I was quite bored. Also, not all that funny was a scene where Ron is a dinner guest at Linda’s parents house. Of course, he’s the only white guy in this large table full of African-Americans and he’s trying to assimilate by using racially offensive stereotypical lingo. It’s funny a couple of time, maybe, but then the whole thing gets drawn out and winds up an unfortunate letdown.

 

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That’s just one example of several unfunny scenes in “Anchorman 2”. The sporadic laughs are weighed down by scenes that wind up as formulaic dead weight. I would’ve been fine with Ferrell and McKay leaning more on the satirical humor that pokes fun at the birth of 24/7 news and the absurd sordid material that constitute such news. Instead we’re given a snooze-worthy sequence where a distraught Burgundy nurses a shark to health. Ugh. Put him back behind a news desk, please.

As far as any new characters, Wiig works best, fitting perfectly as a love interest for Carell. Their initial courtship is quite a delight to take in, but Carell’s Brick is best in small doses and he has some blow-up moments that just comes across like loud yelling.  Not at all the quiet, quirky and strange the character is known for. I don’t mind character development as long as it’s not suddenly cranked to eleven. A pony-tailed Greg Kinnear plays another new character, as Veronica’s new psychologist boyfriend, whom Ron thinks is controlling his mind. But even Kinnear’s character winds up with a development that just isn’t it that funny. In fact, it’s stupid.

The sequel closes with a war in Central Park between a host of news anchors that was funny in the first movie. Here, it just seems forced and desperate, as if repeating those moments are required to get laughs, especially when the fight sequence is more outrageous (stocked with star cameos that mostly feel extremely out-of-place) and drawn out. There’s an absence of a loose and wild feel about it all and that kind of sums up what’s missing. Instead, the movie feels too structured. It’s too bad that Ferrell and McKay couldn’t carry that tone over from the first movie, instead of trying to repeat the laughs.

This movie was obviously crazy fun to make, what with the hilarity that must come when this quartet of actors gets together and all. It’s just too bad the audience won’t experience as much fun sitting through it. If another sequel isn’t made, that’ll be just fine, but if another one doesn’t come out for another decade, that’ll be fine too.

 

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RATING: **

 

 

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