NEWS TEAM, REASSEMBLE!
It seems odd to give an extremely positive review to a film that causes you physical pain throughout its duration. Surely, if something gave you a stomach ache for a whole day, you wouldn’t go home and write about how great it was. However, when that pain is due to 2 hours of almost non-stop hilarity, the people responsible can be somewhat forgiven. Let’s get this over with: Anchorman 2 is a rare example of a comedy sequel that is equally as good as its predecessor (recent examples of failures in this area include The Hangover Part II, Evan Almighty and, arguably, Grown Ups 2). From the first to the final shot, every single person in the screening of this film that I attended was in hysterics, and they didn’t stop laughing at any point for more than 10 seconds. Sure, people will laugh at ANYTHING, you’ll cynically say, but Anchorman 2 isn’t just anything- it’s the cleverest, most original and uniquely funny American comedy we’ve seen in many years.
Anchorman 2 is a film of three acts. The first is, in many aspects, the must stable and hence, the apparently superior. It begins with Will Ferrell’s iconic Ron Burgundy living in New York with his wife Veronica (Christina Applegate), several years after the events of the first film. They co-host a news programme, but when their boss (Harrison Ford) offers Veronica (but not Ron) a historically significant role anchoring a primetime bulletin, his ego causes him to storm out on her. Cut to months later and he is hosting Seaworld shows (sponsored by BP- “best friends of the environment”) and being paid very little for his work. When he is offered a job at a new 24-hour cable news network, he is forced to go on the road to track down and recruit his former News Team.
There are points in this film at which you can just picture the writers (Ferrell and director Adam McKay) grinning with delight at the thought of being able to come up with some genuinely hilarious stuff. One of these points is the start of Ron’s recruitment trip, as the current occupations of Paul Rudd’s smarmy Brian, Steve Carrell’s childlike Brick and David Koechner’s loudmouth Champ prepare to be revealed. Champ’s brings the biggest laughs, but Brick’s brilliant first scene (involving a funeral) was unfortunately revealed in the trailer.
At the start of the second act, the team return to The Big Apple and get to work hosting the 2AM show on ‘GNN’. However, James Marsden’s cocky primetime star Jack Lime has it out for Ron, and does his best to make Channel 4’s finest feel deeply inferior. Ron makes a bet with Lime that, if the 2AM show gets higher ratings than Lime’s on a particular night, Lime must change his name to Jack Lame. Ron’s attempts to win this bet result in the team producing probably the worst news show imaginable, featuring many indicators to today’s 24-hour networks. The remainder of Act 2 involves the team’s gradually increasing celebrity and their adventures in New York, which include Brick meeting a similarly imbecilic love interest: Kristen Wiig’s Chani. Act 2 ends with a terrible event which sets up an extended period of recovery for one character, which takes up more than half of Act 3.
The first half of Act 3 should only be the first quarter of Act 3, and some fairly boring material is stretched beyond belief, but there remains a genuine charm throughout which prevents the audience from ever getting bored, or even stop them from laughing constantly! Eventually, we return to the world of Act 2, and get to witness one of the most hysterical, overblown and, honestly, magnificent comedy set-pieces ever seen on film. With more A-list cameos than a season of SNL and a backstage joke machine that never switches off, Anchorman 2‘s climax will go down in history as a film scene at which every single person in every single screening around the world had their mouth hanging open. It is also clear that the writers and filmmakers were fully aware of how funny their scene was!
The main problem with The Legend Continues, and the reason for its Hobbit-level running time, is that several of the funniest scenes require much set-up, and the set-up is often joke-free. Ron’s short-lived love affair with his “shockingly” female, African-American boss (Meagan Good) brings some extremely tedious scenes, justified only by a very, very funny dinner with her family at which Ron attempts to relate to his potential in-laws through speaking their “vernacular”. Problems there may be, but they are always accompanied by the work of a wonderfully game cast and some really great soundtrack choices and sandwiched by some life-changing comic moments.
Anchorman 2 is destined to be a hugely successful comedy, both commercially and critically, and it knows it too. Still, like some similar films, it never comes across as the slightest bit arrogant, and every moment is tinged with sweetness, coolness and class. It outdoes the 2004 film in duration, scale and, surprisingly, brilliance. Featuring more memorable quotes and awesome set-pieces than any other film this year, The Legend Continues is a truly legendary work. If refusing to make a third film is what it takes for these characters to Stay Classy, so be it!