Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues fails to keep the legend alive
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues has been subject to high expectations since a jazz-flute-playing Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) announced the film's release on late-night talk show Conan in March 2012. The movie has finally arrived, and if you're a fan of the original, the sequel may go down as one of 2013's biggest disappointments. The laughs — while uproarious when they occur — are few and far between, and the movie drags on like a lonely drive across the Pennsylvania Turnpike on a cloudy day. Since the sequel was released nearly 10 years after the surprise hit Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, it must be asked why this movie even had to be made.
Set in the early 1980s, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues finds the Channel 4 news team grappling with the profound changes to their profession brought on by the introduction of cable and the 24-hour news cycle. Burgundy and the rest of the crew are enlisted for the 2 a.m. graveyard slot at cable news network GNN (Global News Network). In an attempt to boost ratings for the station's launch, they create the kind of mindless patriotic fanfare and celebrity-worship dribble that passes for news today.
Along the way, shenanigans ensue that are similar to those in the first movie. Dim-witted, intolerant Ron Burgundy attempts to adjust to his modern surroundings; he forms a romantic relationship with his African-American boss, Linda Jackson, and tries to create some kind of connection with his young son, Walter.
One of the best things about Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is that the entire original cast returns to reprise their roles. In addition to Ferrell's Burgundy, Steve Carell is back as clueless weatherman Brick Tamland; Paul Rudd returns as stylish investigative reporter Brian Fantana; and David Koechner once again tries to repress his homosexual urges for Burgundy as boisterous sports reporter Champ Kind. Christina Applegate is also back as Veronica Corningston while Chris Parnell, Fred Willard, and Vince Vaughn all appear in their old roles during brief cameos.
Clocking in at two hours, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues sticks around like an uninvited party guest who pours another drink after everyone else has left. Director Adam McKay allows Ferrell to go off on multiple random tangents that do nothing for the story and elicit hardly any chuckles. If these useless bits had been cut and the humor moved the story along, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues may have held a toe to the original.
There are a few genuinely hilarious segments in the sequel, but also long stretches of film that are nothing but cringe-worthy. The biggest misstep Ferrell and McKay make is incorporating racial humor into the Burgundy canon: the gags are rarely funny and, in a few cases, are flat-out uncomfortable.
Ferrell gives it his all to do what his character is there to do — carry the entire movie — and he sometimes manages to pull his role off. Burgundy's hapless attempts to communicate with his son provide viewers with more than a few of the movie's laugh-out-loud moments.
The supporting cast tries to push the movie along as well, but only Rudd and Carrell are given material that they're able to spin into gold. The rest of the cast at best play the straight man to someone else's laugh.
Kristin Wiig appears as Tamland's equally brain-dead female counterpart, and successfully toes the line between cute and creepy in her limited screen time. Seeing the two actors play off each other in their scenes together is a delight, and expanding the duo's storyline would have benefited the film. The scene involving the two characters going on a date to a soda machine is utterly priceless.
Wiig isn't the only new face this time around. Compared to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, which contained very few established actors at the time, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is loaded with big-name supporting characters and cameos. Who ever thought one would ever be able to see Drake, Liam Neeson, and Jim Carrey all in the same movie?
Little hype surrounded Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy in 2004: the film's producer Judd Apatow had little to his name but a series of failed television shows including Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared; its leading man Will Ferrell's biggest success had been a supporting role in Old School; and the rest of the film's cast was virtually unheard of.
Today, Apatow is known as a man who revived R-rated comedy — he's responsible for such movies as The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Bridesmaids. Will Ferrell is now an American comedy institution for better or worse. Much of the supporting cast of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy — especially Steve Carrell — have all become comic megastars.
One might think that this kind of comedy dream team returning to the premise that helped launch their careers into the stratosphere could only result in success. That's probably what the cast and crew were thinking, as well as the studio that finally decided to bankroll the project after long periods of budget negotiations. The only thing Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues results in, however, is proving true the age-old maxim that lightning never strikes twice in the same place. Maybe one day Hollywood will stop trying to prove that saying wrong.