Has it really been nine years since Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy? I have to give them credit for not rushing a cash-grab sequel out immediately after. Believe it not, I actually didn't like Anchorman all that much the first time I saw it. I can only remember laughing once or twice in the theater, but a lot of that was due to my mood (and being on a bad date). It wasn't until I watched it a second time that I really started to love it. I think that's the case with a lot of comedies though.
With so much time passing between films, can Anchorman 2 live up to the expectations? Let's see...
Since Anchorman, Ron (Will Ferrell) and Veronica (Christina Applegate) have moved to New York and are anchoring a weekend news show. Their boss and legendary reporter, Mack Harken (Harrison Ford), offers Veronica a promotion while firing Ron. As you'd expect, this doesn't have a good outcome for their relationship and Ron dives into another tailspin. Eventually he's offered a job by Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker), who offers him a job at the Global News Network, which is trying to become the first 24-hour news network. Ron assembles his old news team, and they head back to New York. There's not much more to the plot than that, and it can be kind of a mess at times. In fact, much of the story feels like a remix of the first, hitting many of the same beats. Let's be honest though, is anyone watching Anchorman 2 for the plot? We all just want to laugh, right?
Anchorman 2 is a little rough in the opening minutes. Many of the jokes were landing with a thud, and I was concerned they were trying too hard. I've said this before, but it's really hard to recapture that same lightning in the bottle, especially where comedy is concerned. Fortunately after it settles in, there are plenty of good laughs to be had. Having said that, there are a few gags that go nowhere or outright don't work, and more than a few times, they are basically recycling a joke from the first. They can't be all gems though, and I was pleased that some of the better laughs weren't spoiled by the trailer, so if you're concerned about that you should rest a little easier going in. Another thing that you'll notice is that this installment isn't quite as quotable as the first, although subsequent views once this hits blu-ray may prove otherwise. I still think Anchorman will be the winner in that category though.
It's all the same silly stuff you've come to expect from Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. So, if you're not a fan of the overgrown, man-child act, then this is likely not going to be for you. Will Ferrell portrays Ron again with the same over-the-top buffoonery, but he might have dialed it up to 11 this time. If you're a Champ (David Koechner) fan, he seemed to take a back seat, as well as Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), who played more of a voice of reason this time around. As much as this is Will Ferrell's show though, you'll likely notice there's a lot more of Brick (Steve Carell). He has an oddly sweet, but funny, courtship with Chani (Kristen Wiig). I can only describe it as watching monkeys learn how to use tools.
There are lot of new members to the cast, such as Dylan Baker, who's primarily a straight man to all of the antics. Meagan Good joins the cast as Ron's fiery and sexy boss. Films need more Meagan Good. Greg Kinnear also has a few funny moments. I was very happy to see James Marsden finally getting a chance to show mainstream audiences that he can be a funny guy. I've long felt he was an underappreciated actor who usually ends up playing the other guy in romantic comedies or even in action films (like his role in Superman Returns or Cyclops in the X-Men series). Here he has a central role that I hope gets him the recognition he deserves. Another interesting performance was the kid (Judah Nelson) they had playing Ron and Veronica's son. At times, he's delivering lines like an inexperienced. overly enthusiastic child actor, but then there's a scene towards the end that made me think this was an intentional direction and make it that much funnier.
I was surprised to see this was two hours, as I often complain that comedies have no business being that long, but I didn't notice the length at all. Time flies when you're having fun, eh? I also applaud the movie for getting away with just a PG-13 rating. Anchorman 2 doesn't get its laughs from being vulgar or gross. I don't have an issue with that normally, but it's nice to see a comedy not going for shock value.
While not as funny as the first film, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues has enough of the same absurd and silly humor that made the first so enjoyable and fans will have a good time watching. I can't say it was worth waiting nine years for, but in a weak year for comedy it'll do.
3.5 (out of 5) Death Stars