Don’t yell at Brick.
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, the endlessly quotable 2004 comedy classic, was getting ripe for a sequel, and, nine years later, here we are. Ron Burgundy and friends jump into 1980 with mostly new jokes, but is it worth the nine-year wait, or would Anchorman be better served fading into cult obscurity?
Yes, it’s 1980, but it’s also Anchorman, which means historical accuracy is the least of director Adam McKay’s concerns. In a movie with Mongoose-hair condoms, the ghost of Stonewall Jackson, a Were-Hyena, and Brick Tamland, the humor comes first, and comes often. The Legend Continues, rather than resting on the style and laurels of its predecessor, takes a different, Airplane!-inspired approach to the comedy, throwing as much crap at the wall as it possibly can and seeing what sticks. Not all of it does, and some of the jokes fall flatter than the editor gave them credit for, but it’s still a damn funny two hours, full of non sequiturs, physical gags, the surreal, and anything else that Will Ferrell and company thought might elicit a laugh. Speaking of editing, or a lack thereof, this movie is two hours long, and any amateur could have told you to cut Kristen Wiig entirely. She’s a very funny lady, but so is Amy Poehler, who’s role was completely excised from the first film. Kristen, as a romantic interest for mentally retarded weatherman Brick Tamland, is worth little more than a few chuckles, and offers no contributions to the main storylines of the film. In general, a little creative editing would have resulted in a much tighter, faster, denser film than the merely very-funny flick we have.
The news world of today is very different than it used to be; we have a 24-hour news cycle in which people are fed not the news they need to know, but the drivel they want to hear. Naturally, Ron Burgundy’s pride and hubris are responsible for completely disrupting the state of cable news. In the world of Anchorman, the network is GNN, led by the Rupert Murdoch caricature played by Josh Lawson. The potential for a biting satire is there, but it lacks the teeth to really blow the lid off of the real-life analogs to the film.
More interesting, however, is Ron’s personal journey. How quickly he alternates from being on top of the world to being down in the dumps is a comedy all its own, and the man, though dumb and occasionally reprehensible, has a strong enough moral center that he always tries to make up for his mistakes, and even swallow his pride. At the end of the day, it’s hard not to root for the guy, even when he smokes crack on the air.
It also helps that he’s backed up by his faithful news team, all returning from the first film. Steve Carrell, David Koechner, and Paul Rudd are all back and as funny as ever. Christina Applegate also returns, though in a somewhat reduced capacity. New additions to the New York-set comedy include James Marsden as a young and dreamy rival, and Meagan Good as an executive at the GNN network who develops a carnal fondness for Ron Burgundy.
There are no perfect two-hour comedies, and the pacing suffers in comparison to the first film. There’s more plot, which is good, but it phases in and out of relevance rather than being a constant driving force in the proceedings. While the movie starts out firing on all cylinders, it loses steam as it goes on, then gains it back, then loses it again, and so on. By the end, however, it resorts to falling back on a few of the most famous gags from the original film (news battle, Dues Ex Baxter) in a failed attempt to compensate for Anchorman 2‘s lack of a satisfying ending.
That being said, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay have delivered us the best mainstream comedy of the year. Within twenty minutes or so, I was laughing so hard that it hurt. The rest of the movie might not be able to compete with its opening act, but that bizarrely irreverant and surreal style remains its own and can’t be beaten anywhere else. Raise your glass and praise the man, the legend, the Anchorman.