Day 263: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

"By the hymen of Olivia Newton John!"

Few movies have maintained the kind of staying power over the last decade that 2004's Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy has. One of the most oft-quoted films in all of pop culture, Anchorman became a phenomenon after it was released on dvd as its summer slot in 2004 wasn't terribly lucrative (it made somewhere in the neighborhood of $80 million). A sequel seemed like a sure bet, but Paramount was hesitant to give one the green light until early last year when they came to their senses and announced that a sequel would be coming this Christmas. So could Anchorman 2 possibly live up to the lofty expectations that nine years of waiting had built up? Read on to find out...

Picking up several years after the first film, Anchorman 2 opens with Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) co-anchoring the 6:30 news in New York City. Word comes down that legendary prime time anchorman Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford) is retiring, and he selects Veronica to replace him and fires Ron. Ron splits with his wife and moves back to San Diego, finding himself as an announcer at Sea World. He is paid a visit by a man (Dylan Baker) looking for anchors to cover air time at the first ever 24 hour news channel being started up back in New York City.

Ron accepts the job and reunites with his old news team of Champ Kind (David Koechner), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) to once more dominate the news. Upon their arrival, however, they learn that they will be taking the graveyard shift of 2-5am as they are nobodies in a world dominated by even classier news anchors like Jack Lime (James Marsden). Ron and his team decide to take a radical approach to journalism, and begin reporting on all manner of nonsense that doesn't necessarily qualify as news, but their ratings are so astounding, the network begins to morph around them. 

As a satire of the 24 hour news cycle and corporate run "news" channels, Anchorman 2 works surprisingly well, better than it has any right to actually. The direct attacks on the current state of television journalism are sharp, if a little obvious, and give the film a reason to exist beyond the "more of the same" formula that most belated sequels fall victim to. For about 75% of its running time, Anchorman 2 more than lives up to its predecessor, combining hilarious one-liners with callbacks to a lot of the bits that worked in the first film.

At right about the eighty minute mark, however, the film takes a left turn that the audience will either willingly follow or completely abandon, and while the film didn't completely go off the rails for me, nothing about the film's final forty minutes worked for me as well as anything that came before it, including the entirety of the previous film. Part of me admires the bold direction that Ferrell and co-writer/director Adam McKay take things, but the other part of me began to wonder just what the hell was going on. A late film attempt to one-up one of the most classic bits from the first film also fell curiously flat for me, though I imagine most people will eat it up.

Ferrell, and all of his returning co-stars to be fair, slips comfortably right back into the skin of this blowhard, and it's nice to spend more time in the company of Burgundy and these characters. None of the new additions to the cast stood out in a bad way, but none fit right into the existing stock company with any ease either. Marsden in particular flounders, and Kristen Wiig's introduction as a love interest for Brick seemed oddly out of step with an already absurd film. 

I truly do have to hand it to McKay & Ferrell for making such bold choices. They could have rested on their laurels and just given us a ninety minute rehash of the first film, but they chose to take things in new and sometimes interesting directions, but it's virtually impossible to sustain absurd comedy for ninety minutes, let alone this film's close to interminable running time of two hours. The wheels come off eventually, and while they manage to stick the landing, some of the getting there is a bit too far out of left field for my taste. 

I have no doubt that my opinion of this film will change with time and multiple viewings, but as of right now, I'm more bothered by the odd developments of the film's third act than I am enamored with the stuff I really loved about the first two. Fans of the original will find a lot of stuff in here to love, and I'm sure that new converts to the series will find enough bits to enjoy, but I leave this first viewing of the film a tad underwhelmed by what could have been. This is a film that can only benefit from lowered expectations.

[Photos via BoxOfficeMojo]