Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Absurd, bewildering and yes, still funny.
December 18, 2013
The original Anchorman was the exemplification of bottled lightning — an entirely unanticipated revelation, like champagne, penicillin or sex panther. To think upon it even now is to at once giggle and confound, because really — what was it all about? Yes, there was the surprisingly cogent engagement with sexism and old old wooden ships, but ultimately it was less a film and more a collection of random sketches bearing scant relevance to either plot or each other.
Still, it worked. Really worked. Anchorman became an instant classic and surely the most quotable movie since Zoolander. How and why a line like 'I love lamp' becomes iconic is anybody's guess, yet for the past decade it's almost been the unofficial mantra for Gen-Y. So, for writers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, the question was: could they bottle lightning twice?
Not quite, as it turns out, but it's not a bad attempt by the pair, and there are certainly enough laughs to justify the effort.
Anchorman 2 picks up the story in the early '80s, where legendary news anchor Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) has lost his job while his wife, Veronica (Christina Applegate), has been promoted to primetime host. Down and out, drunk and working as an announcer at Sea World, Burgundy receives an offer to join the first ever 24/7 news network — GNN — headed up by the unscrupulous and unintelligible Aussie billionaire Kench Allenby (Josh Lawson). Burgundy quickly accepts and immediately sets out to reunite his iconic news team, comprising sex-fiend Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), uncomfortable-hugger Champ Kind (David Koechner) and confused-frown Brick Tamland (Steve Carell).
From that moment on, Anchorman 2 is a trip down a very familiar lane. There's neither innovation nor reinvention here as we again encounter a flashy jazz flute performance, absurd vocal warmups, unconventional exclamations ("By the hymen of Olivia Newton John!"), Brian's secret cupboard of adult goodies, auto-cue accidents, wrestling with dangerous animals and a battle royale between rival news crews that's so cameo-heavy, it topples over before it even begins. Most disappointing of all is the misapplication of Carell's character, whose periodic non sequiturs were a highlight in the original, but are too often replaced in the sequel by ear-shattering screaming or desperate, maniacal laughter.
That's not to say Anchorman 2 is light on the laughs. Far from it — they're just less memorable. So too the one-liners, making it unlikely the next decade will feature re-quotes in the same way things like 'stay classy' appeared throughout the last.
It does also offer an amusing and critical take on the sensationalisation of news, with Burgundy asking at one point: "Why do we need to tell the people what they need to hear? Why can't we tell them what they want to hear?" It's an entirely justifiable gibe, particularly given the way juggernauts like Fox News could scarcely call themselves that, but feels too earnest in a movie that is otherwise unabashedly absurd.