Films/Theater Reviews — 19 December 2013
Anchorman 2 and the Peril of the Sequel

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(This review contains no spoilers)

Ten years after Ron Burgundy and the Channel 4 News Team took San Diego and the rest of the movie going public by storm, the band returned Wednesday with a mid-week release of the incessantly promoted “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” (PG-13) to get a jump on the Christmas weekend box office. If we learned anything from the dreadful follow-ups to “The Hangover,” which had an R rating to fall back on, it’s that sometimes the memories that a singular feature leaves us far outweighs the benefits of the perilous sequel. Fortunately “Anchorman’s” second chapter is distinctive enough as a film that it ends as a satisfying attempt to further the story of Burgundy’s legend but as a whole is unable to overcome our skepticism about the movie’s ability to succeed in the same fashion as the first.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” was a comedy that for some time changed the literal lexicon of pop culture. Though not an overwhelmingly smashing success ($90.5 million) in comparison to the number of rated R comedies that would follow in the ensuing years, you couldn’t go anywhere in the mid-2000′s without hearing someone quoting a ridiculous Burgundy line in that deep bellowing voice that Will Ferrell made commonplace. But despite all of the same elements returning for the sequel, three basic shortcomings explain why the film falls shy of the lofty precedent set by its initial outing.

The original ‘Anchorman’s’ ridiculousness was completely new in 2004.

Ad-libbing is hardly a novel concept but the “Anchorman” cast’s unparalleled ability to spew out the utterly ridiculous off the cuff lines that ensured you laughed out loud even if contextually it hardly made sense, seemed like a completely fresh approach to film making in 2004. Fast forward past other Ferrell films since then like “Wedding Crashers,” “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” “Step Brothers,” “The Other Guys,” and “The Campaign” and the new-fangled concept of blurted out silliness is suddenly watered down and tired. And while there are certainly moments of glory in “Anchorman 2″ in this regard, it at times feels forced and rehashed and often, overly calculated.

An unknown Brick Tamland is funnier than the Steve Carell we’ve come to love today.

Steve Carell‘s role in the “Anchorman” films is clearly the most challenging and the least believable because the 2013 version of Carell is the one we now know so much better than we did back in 2004. The star of his own sitcom and plenty of films over the last decade, Carell is now a known quantity and unfortunately, the bumbling, mentally challenged Tamland can’t possibly retain the same ‘who is this hilarious guy’ shock value today as when he was originally cast as a virtual unknown. Initially featured as a bit player, Carell’s role in the sequel feels more prevalent, only the same run of gags from the initial film are now less funny because we are familiar with his immense talent and because the Tamland character is so dumbed down and to a degree, comedically limited.

Sequels equal an unnecessary overflow of cameos. (SPOILER FREE)

Cameos when used properly can certainly enhance the film going experience if they aren’t spoiled for you going in. In seeing “Anchorman 2″ on its opening night, we had been lucky to remain in the woods in that regard. But with the stars of “Anchorman 2″ already reuniting for the sequel, it’s the additional cameos in this film that feel like overkill. The likes of Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller and Luke Wilson appearing in the first film felt genuine and unique- like the members of a comedy brat back all letting us into their world as offscreen friends, doing favors for each other. “Anchorman 2″ meanwhile has cameos that will leave you scratching your head, and the ones which are meant to be most effective wind up meaning less because of the preponderance of celebrities tacked on here for a shock value that ever have the effect of which they are intended.

If it seems that I’ve been overly critical of “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” perhaps that’s true. The original film is the last one that I made sure to not only catch in the theaters more than once, but also procure a bootleg version of the film to satisfy me until its release on DVD. It is often appropriately held in the same comedic esteem as some of the best and funniest films ever produced. And in comparison to the initial film, its sequel certainly pales. But critiques aside, “Anchorman 2″ is a fine complement to its precursor as it tracks the story of Ron Burgundy, Champ Kind, Brian Fantana and Brick Tamland reuniting at the spawn of a brand new 24 hour news channel. The audience plays witness to the team stumbling upon changing the face of news with the sort of accidental sensationalism of which only Burgundy is truly capable. Sure there are shark attacks and car crashes, bouts of blindness and racism, and plenty of absurdist content to pair with the requisite ad-libbed dialog that director Adam McKay has been able to harness to his benefit. In a vacuum, the film is plenty funny with no shortage of call backs to the first film certain to please any long time fan. While it falls far short of the pedestal on which the original “Anchorman” proudly sits, the director and his cast should be lauded for not putting up an outright stinker with this sequel that capably if imperfectly carries the torch of the Ron Burgundy franchise.

 “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” starring Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Christina Applegate and Paul Rudd is rated PG-13, has a runtime of 119 minutes, and is in theaters everywhere.

- Jane Van Arsdale


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