Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was one of those rarest of comedies, a film that gets funnier the more you watch it and one that has so many quotable lines that you’d laugh yourself silly before running out while reciting them with friends. Like Airplane! and This is Spinal Tap! it was a film that you could introduce to friends and watch them fall in love with and watch on a loop without getting bored. As a nineteen year old in 2004, that’s how my friends and I saw it anyway. In the years since, the film’s star Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) has made occasional appearances in adverts and the like as well as a, let’s be honest, poor and straight to DVD Wake Up Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie which was compiled using left over footage from the first movie. Now though, nearly a decade later the famous New Team has finally assembled for a much anticipated two hour sequel.
I have an odd love/hate relationship with Will Ferrell. Sometimes he seems like the funniest guy in the world and his comic creations slay me. More than half the time though, he really annoys me. In Anchorman his Ron Burgundy character was always the former of these two Ferrells’ but unfortunately for long periods in Anchorman 2 I found his greatest creation not just annoying but also dull. Annoying and dull are two words that I’d also use to describe the film as a whole. That being said, it is not without its moments and most of these come flying from the gaping mouth of Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), the man who saves the movie.
In Anchorman Steve Carell is given forth billing behind Ferrell, Christina Applegate and Paul Rudd but learning from his character’s popularity in that movie, writers Adam McKay and Will Ferrell have bumped him up to second billing for the sequel. This was an extremely wise decision. Brick is an extremely loveable puppy in a human’s body, a man ill at ease with every situation he finds himself in and his battle through life, moment by moment is the biggest thrill in this film. He’s the only character outside the titular to be given his own side story (a sweet and awkward romance with Kristen Wiig’s equally baffled secretary) and through a combination of great writing and a tremendous performance, steals the film from the rest of the cast. Strange outbursts, unusual dialogue and hilarious faces help to turn Brick into the star of the film while the surrounding cast get some of their best lines in reaction to his.
A character that I was particularly fond of in the original film was Paul Rudd’s Brian Fontana. Confident and slightly sleazy, he was given some great things to do in Anchorman but seems like an afterthought here. He gets the odd decent line (“We’re all the same on the inside – pink and stinky”) but for the most part he fades into the background during the ensemble scenes behind the louder characters of Burgundy and Brick. Paul Rudd is one of my favourite comic actors but he doesn’t appear to be trying at times and the film feels like a wasted opportunity for some more Fontana fun. David Koechner’s Champ rounds out the News Team but his character, the least funny in the original, is relegated to a repeat of his hinted at homosexual feelings for Ron and numerous repeats of his catchphrase “Whammy!”
The film is chock full of cameos, many of which pop up during the fight scene we all know is coming. While it’s funny for a few seconds to see A-Lister X or comic legend Y on screen briefly, very few of these add much to the humour. It feels a little like some guys just called their mates for a day of fun in a park and while they’re having a lot of fun, the audience isn’t. The fight scene itself obviously has to go bigger than the terrific and unexpected original and while elements are great (more nationalities/Brick’s gun/sexy French lady), it feels rushed due to the narrative time restraints imposed upon it. Despite my reservations though, it’s always fun to see someone unexpected pop up during a film and this one goes further than most with it.
One of my favourite things about Anchorman 2 was its satire on modern news and in particular the Murdoch owned channels such as Fox and Sky. It made me laugh that in the film’s world, it’s a man as stupid and ridiculous as Ron Burgundy who creates the overblown, hyper-patriotic nonsense that passes for news on some stations. It’s a really nice idea which the writers stretch well and creates a lot of intelligent humour to go along with the sillier stuff, thus helping the film appeal to more people. Many of the ideas that Ron comes up with seem familiar to us today but we rarely think about why the news will show us car chases or animal stories rather than stories about corporate negligence and the like. In Ron’s final speech he states that the news is the news, not what corporations decide is the news. It’s a powerful message which knocks you sideways a little. The tone of the film changes dramatically from the daft bowling ball to the nuts stuff at the beginning to something more serious and it ends as a film with a message. I was thankful for it.
Overall Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is much more hit and miss than its predecessor. There are large swathes of the film that pass without laughter and I hate to say it but I was occasionally bored. On the other hand it’s great to be reunited with the likes of Brick and Ron and there are enough laugh out loud moments to qualify it as a success. It’s a little long and flabby but crams in some nice themes as well as an unexpected message and if a third film is ever released, I’ll be in my seat at the back on opening weekend.