I saw this Anchorman sequel twice, and both times I could not stop laughing. It’s been a while since I’ve a seen a film with as much pure manic energy as this one. Rest assured, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues was well worth the wait. Everyone from the powerhouse comedic team behind the first film is back; director Adam McKay and producer Judd Apatow return along with stars Will Ferrell (co-writing again with McKay), Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, and Christina Applegate.
Nine years have passed since we first heard the legend of Ron Burgundy (Ferrell), and the update of the film’s setting matches that gap. Burgundy and Co. have jumped from the seventies to the eighties. Ron and Veronica Corningstone (Applegate) are married with a six-year-old son, Walter (Judah Nelson, deadpan with hilarious innocence) and life is good, until Ron is fired by his idol, Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford). Burgundy hits bottom, but a proposal from GNN, the world’s first 24-hour news network, sends him out to reassemble the news team.
What a wonderful reunion it is. Ferrell, Rudd, Carell, and Koechner are an absolute riot. Burgundy remains the lovable narcissist he always was, and Rudd and Koechner are solid once again as Brian Fantana and Champ Kind, but Steve Carell is something else entirely. Brick Tamland (Carell) was memorably eccentric in the first film, but here Carell devotedly throws the character even further into his own wildly absurd world. Brick is ludicrously enigmatic and Carell’s performance glows with utter conviction.
In all honesty, the comedy is often very silly, sometimes sometimes veering into the plain stupid. Yet the pleasant surprise is the smartly subversive satire that McKay and Ferrell infuse into the story. As things start moving at GNN, the film throws some great jabs at the sensationalism in non-stop mass media. When network representative Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker) tells Ron and the team “it’s total crap and they can’t get enough,” the truth reflected in those words, especially today, is almost sobering. The ridiculousness of it all is frequently lampshaded, and, even through the retro lens, the satirical content retains its blunt honesty and relevance in the eyes and ears of its modern audience.
Sequels tend to squander the potential of their originals, but Anchorman 2 arrived this December as a welcome exception, a cinematic gift that opened just in time for Christmas. Sure, it follows the path blazed by the original, and, yes, perhaps the first movie is truthfully more quotable (you might not hear a line quite as solid as “sixty percent of the time, it works every time”), but McKay and Ferrell pull off a pretty neat stunt this time around. They prove that more can be better. Absurdity is pushed to the breaking point and then well over it, especially in a fantastically epic reprise of the news team battle royal seen in the first film. The big-headed, bigoted characters, especially Ferrell’s, cross the line twice then twice again. This sequel takes the humor of the original, runs with it, converts it into rocket fuel, and blasts it through the stratosphere.
Ron, Brick, Brian, and Champ are all bumbling morons, each of a unique, twisted sort, and the focus on their outright idiocy is ingenious. James Marsden is also great as Jack Lime, the suave golden boy at GNN, and his clashes with Ferrell’s Burgundy offer an interesting and rib-splitting glance into yet another media trend: the de facto pattern of the new pushing out the old. You shouldn’t count out Ron Burgundy of course, because as the man himself passionately states, he was put on this earth “to have salon-quality hair and read the news.”
Tonight’s top story? A rare exception to disappointing comedy sequels that breaks its own boundaries and reminds us how much we love the legend of a certain madcap newsman in a maroon blazer.
Verdict: Movie Win
This article was published in its original form in The Massachusetts Daily Collegian on January 21, 2014.