It’s been a decade since the original Anchorman regaled us with the exploits of the scotch-guzzling, self-aggrandizing Ron Burgundy and his motley news team. Having acquired cult status thanks to its endless quotability – “That escalated quickly”, “I love lamp”, etc., etc. – what could a follow-up possibly add to its anarchic brand of non-sequiturism. As it turns out, more of the same, just bigger and, if possible, weirder.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues picks up several years after the events of the first film. Ron (Will Ferrell) and his wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are on top of the world, professionally and personally; that is until their boss (a curmudgeonly Harrison Ford) retires, promoting Veronica to lead anchor on the nightly news and firing the slapdash Ron. Ron’s downward spiral and unexpected reascension encompasses RV accidents, legal name changes, bottle feeding sharks, and plenty of jabs at the Fox News patented 24-hour news cycle. The film isn’t too concerned with its plot: it’s mostly a chance to reunite a series of familiar and much-loved faces. Ron himself is as absurd as ever: he makes a voice that suggests he’s lying even as he’s trying to tell a unpleasant truth, he ice skates while playing the jazz flute. His attempt to sensitively address the race politics of the time is to refer to a dinner table of black middle-class Americans as bunch of “pipe hitting bitches”.
Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) is still a deeply unsafe ladies man, Champ Kind (David Koechner) is still a homoerotically-inclined buffoon, but most of the laughs come, as always, from Steve Carell’s deadpan cloudcuckoolander Brick. He even gets a love interest in the form of Kristen Wiig’s brain-dead eccentric Chani. We also get Meagan Good, James Wood, Dylan Baker, and Greg Kinnear. What we don’t get is much by the way of focus. There’s a morale about the dangers of corporate interference in the news that sidelined until the final act, but you don’t go to a Will Ferrell comedy for the bold and lasting messages. Some of the scenes are a little overlong – you get the feeling that Adam McKay was loathe to yell cut on the improve in case he missed anything of genius – but there’s just about enough inventiveness on a minute-by-minute, second-by-second basis to justify the two hour run-time.
The Anchorman 2 approach to comedy is summed up in a battle sequence that apes the original film as a half dozen teams of newscasters throw down in Central Park. There’s a Minotaur, a werewolf (correction: were-hyena) and the Ghost of Stonewall Jackson, not to mention a dizzying succession of celebrity cameos, of whom Liam Neeson and Kirsten Dunst may be the least famous. In short, there’s an excess of stuff going on, a surfeit of real character development, and it may even be a touch over-desperate for you to like it, but Anchorman 2 is generally pretty amusing and a good deal of fun.