It’s strange to think that it was almost ten years ago that audiences were welcomed into the mustachioed world of Ron Burgundy and his merry band of newsmen. So much of the 2004 film has passed into public consciousness that the fact that it was by all accounts unsuccessful no longer matters. It has grown on the shelf and in the hearts of audiences everywhere, becoming the closest thing to a modern cult classic that there is.
It’s no surprise then that a follow-up has arrived with the release of outing number two for Ron, Brick, Champ and Brian. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues moves on from the bright lights of 1970s San Diego into the bustle of 80s New York, with the team primed to take on the 24-hour news cycle. This change of locale is already an indication of the changing priorities of the team behind Anchorman, as hitting the big time in New York is a sad change from the unique quirkiness of Ron’s home, San Diego. Mainstream stories are often told in the metropolis that is the Big Apple, and are rarely told differently, whereas setting the original story in the sunny west coast city marked Anchorman as something different; something unique. This is sadly a symptom of a wider issue with this follow-up, and that is simply that Anchorman 2 lacks the charm of its predecessor.
When Ron (Will Ferrell) burst into cinemas, his film was full off a brash oddness; confident masculinity with a jazz flute finish, but following this success, comedies have since remodeled to follow this almost cartoonish air. Therefore, Anchorman 2 has a more difficult task, in that it must stand out as the unique experience it once was. This need for a fresh approach seems to have been met with an increased budget, which is clear to see from an early on car crash to later scenes involving bizarre special effects, including a new form of Brian’s deadly sex panther powers. However, a higher budget does not necessarily make for a better film, and the strange uses here do very little but to remove some of the raw, unpolished charm of the original film.
This is not to say that the film is without hope, as getting this cast back together is always a sure-fire way to give audiences more laughs than most comedies can accomplish. Its certainly not high cinema, but it is crowd-pleasing. As always, Will Ferrell eats up the screen: strong, opinionated and hilariously dim. The image of Ron at his lowest point nursing a shark back to health is as bizarre as it is entertaining. His attempts at fatherhood in this newest film are a welcome addition of emotion to what was a fairly shallow original. However, this seriousness never overtakes the comedic aspect of the film, with Ron taking his son to a cock-fight serving as proof.
Where the first film dealt with the acceptance of changing gender roles, Anchorman 2 has instead an odd preoccupation with race. Moving from one hot button issue to another, and having its issues ridiculed to the point of lunacy, is a good tactic in effectively laughing at the pointlessness of such views, but the film’s efforts in this regard do not achieve its goals as strongly as it could. Having said that, Ron meeting the family of his new black girlfriend Linda (Meagan Good) is a fine example of Ron Burgundy’s comedy through his outdated views.
The sad part of this though is that despite his ability to still draw in laughs, Ron’s strange boldness seems to have been lost among nonsensical ramblings and brash statements that fail to deliver as strongly as audiences will remember. The hard work has already been done in making Ron an iconic character, and so sadly the imagination seems to have gone from the writing of what was a unique character. Instead there are attempts at poignancy, with Ron’s revolutionary change to the news agenda not quite sitting right, but this adds little to the laughs.
The laughs are still there however, from Champ (David Koecher)’s fried “chicken of the caves” business to Brian (Paul Rudd) and his mythical contraception cabinet. The career trajectories of the original stars have seen Steve Carell grow in success over the years. As a leading man, his character of Brick is therefore given a lot more to do, with a love interest in the form of Chani (Kristen Wiig). The fact is that Brick, with all his wayward thoughts and simple mumblings, worked best as a secondary character, occasionally chipping in odd phrases, such as the highly memorable “I love lamp”. Unfortunately, Brick is not suited to the clownish expansion of his second appearance, with laughs only occasionally present throughout his otherwise manic performance.
Despite Brick’s change, he does still provide great entertainment, simply from the one-liners that were so well received in his first appearance. Sadly, the many quotable moments that Anchorman gave the world have not been added to by much. Fans wanting a new “glass case of emotion” moment may be disappointed. The various homages to the original are fun to pick out, with the newest news team brawl hilarious if just for the cameos involved. Each repetition from the original brings with it fond memories, with Ron’s jazz flute skills once again on show. While these moments, and the film they are a part of, do not manage to eclipse their origins, they do remind you of the love that can be had from spending time with these characters. Isn’t that really what a comedic sequel should do?