CHARLIE PALMER reviews Anchorman 2. It’s pretty good.
Anchorman 2 is no Anchorman 1.
Even the most optimistic of Ron Burgundy fans secretly knew The Legend Continues wasn’t quite going to replicate the improvised, quotable genius of the first installment, but everyone wanted to see it anyway. And so they should: this is a funny, ridiculous, surprisingly satirical film which is a more than adequate follow-up to one of the best comedies of this century.
The plot is even less important than it was in A1. Ron loses his job and wife, and is hired by a new 24-hour news channel, funded by an Australian airline. He and the team decide the news should be about “telling people what they want to hear”, in a biting send-up of current American news shows, and are a great success before rival newsman, the nauseatingly slick Jack Lime, intervenes.
Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay have clearly been worrying about how this film could ever live up to expectations, and the answer they’ve come up with is “go bigger”. The jokes and scenes we all know and love from the first film are there, but they’ve been made more ridiculous. This time, Ferrell’s Burgundy plays jazz flute while ice skating. Even Ron’s surprised exclamations have got more ridiculous: A1’s “By the beard of Zeus!” has been replaced with “By the hymen of Olivia Newton-John!”
Some of the rehashed material doesn’t quite work. Instead of spending most of the film being sexist, the team are racist towards their black boss (a scene where Ron meets her extended family is definitely more awkward than funny). Sports reporter Champ Kind’s crush on Ron, kept mostly subtle in A1, is made too obvious and loses what little comic value it once had. Some of the jokes feel a little forced – there is the odd moment, particularly in the first twenty minutes, when the script seems a bit like an imitation of Anchorman rather than its sequel, as if the writers had forgotten how to come up with original material so relied on formulas from the original.
The film’s real strength lies in the cast’s improvisational skill and the best scenes are not the absurd set pieces, but the moments of ordinary dialogue between the news, or between Ron and his wife (the superb and under-used Christina Applegate). You can’t help but get the impression that the cast loved making this film, and their enjoyment is contagious. Many sequels jump the shark because the people making them think they need to go bigger to keep the audience’s attention; Anchorman 2 jumps the shark because the people making it thought it would be more fun to make a more ridiculous film. The proverbial Fonz clears the proverbial great white by a good ten feet in the obligatory news team fight near the end (the list of cameos is like nothing you’ve ever seen before), and it’s great. The more self-indulgent this sequel is, the more you’ll enjoy it.
It’s not a film you’ll be quoting for the next ten years, but it’s a really good comedy and everyone should go and see it.