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Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

December 18, 2013
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again: Will Ferrell needs constraints or opposition to be at his best; like its predecessor, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues doesn’t provide them. The rest of the news team offers some distraction, but there’s still a lot of raw Ferrell schtick on display here. And without the opportunity to make some pointed commentary on the kind of men who are flat-out terrified by professional competition from women, the result is more a jumble of bits than a single story.

What story there is: in 1979, Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are now personal and professional partners, co-anchoring the weekend news at a New York station when vaunted weeknight anchor Mack Harken (Harrison Ford) decides to retire. On his way out, he promotes Veronica, fires Ron, and Ron storms off in a fit, sinking into an alcoholic depression.

Months later we find him back in San Diego. Also finding him in San Diego is a representative of a new 24-hour news network (Dylan Baker), who wants Burgundy to reassemble his news team. So we chase down Champ Kind (David Koechner) at his self-styled fast food restaurant, Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) shooting some very risqué photos, and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) at his funeral.

They turn up in New York, only to find that they’re scheduled for the graveyard shift, while prettyboy Jack Lime (James Marsden) has the prime time slot. Worse: in Ron’s absence, Victoria has taken up with psychiatrist Gary (Greg), who may or may not have mind powers. In desperation, Ron makes a bet that his late-night ratings will beat Jack’s prime-time, and the only way he can win it is, well, to make 24-hour TV news into what we know today. “Why can’t we tell them what they want to hear?”

As if this wasn’t enough, Ron also has a fiery romance with his new boss, Linda Jackson (Meagan Good); on top of all the other callback bits, there’s a ton of Ferrell schtick to go around. It’s leavened a bit by the rest of the news team, though Brick’s budding relationship with his soulmate, Chani (Kristen Wiig), is by far the best developed, and even that plays more like a running gag. Personally, Brick’s idiocy works for me more than Champ’s good-ole-boy bit or Brian’s porn-stache swagger, but it would have been nice for either of them to get more screen time if it meant dialing back on Ron himself.

Still, about half the material lands, and that’s not bad for this kind of scattershot-style comedy. The giant, cameo-packed set-piece at the end stands pretty well on its own, and it’s executed well enough that it makes up for a lot of misfires earlier on. But nothing really ties the whole film together. Once they’ve set up the idea that “hey, cable news has really gone off the rails, hasn’t it?” they’ve pretty much blown their social-commentary load, and there’s not a lot left but gags.

If you really liked Anchorman, you’re probably going to be pretty happy with this sequel. If you really hated the original, the same will probably hold. Between that, it’s hard to say. On balance it worked for me, but your mileage may vary.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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