Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
by M. Faust
Second only perhaps the The Big Lebowski as an offbeat comedy whose audience has grown surprisingly in the years (nearly 10 of them now) since its theatrical premiere, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was a standard-issue Will Ferrell vehicle (working with his usual partner writer-director Adam McKay) with a higher proportion of successful gags than usual. The one everyone remembers—and it is a classic—is the gang fight among competing TV news teams.
That scene is resurrected for the finale of this sequel, considerably amped up. Gathering in Central Park to duke it out are the BBC, CBC, MTV, ESPN, a were-hyena, the ghost of Stonewall Jackson, and the Minotaur. Numerous famous faces are included, and the special-effects guys earn their paychecks. But no matter how much more overstuffed it is, it’s the same scene we remember from the original film, minus the element of surprise.
And that’s Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues in a nutshell. It is possibly the most promoted movie in film history: Ferrell has been making appearances in character as pompous newscaster Ron Burgundy for most of the past year. Obviously the studio marketing team is working on the assumption that if audiences know about it, they will show up at theaters. They’re probably right, even if there were only 10 people at the Tuesday night sneak preview I attended. Fans will get nothing terribly different from the 2004 film. But the silliness that was surprising then just isn’t as funny when you’re expecting it.
Take Steve Carell, whose weatherman Brick Tamland was most everyone’s favorite character. The growing revelation that Brick was borderline brain-damaged was a gag that grew effectively. Here, the character starts that way, and after the first few instances of him spouting nonsense it’s just dully repetitious. Worse, he’s given a female counterpart (Kristen Wiig) to add to the overkill.
There’s a good satirical idea in here: Hired to work for the first cable news channel (think CNN), Ron stumbles on the idea of filling time by reducing the news to its most base elements—car chases, cute kittens, ostentatious displays of patriotism—and becomes a superstar.
And there are some gags that have an unexpected surreal lunacy: My favorite involves a baby shark. But for every sharp gag there are a dozen rote lines, like Ron’s Perry White-ish exclamations of surprise (“Tony Danza’s scrotum!” “Sweet cream on nipples!” “By the hymen of Olivia Newton John!”)
The film’s marketing tag line, borrowed from Ron’s self-assessment in the original film, is “It’s kind of a big deal.” It really isn’t.
Watch the trailer for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
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