December 18, 2013

SHOWBUZZDAILY Film Review: “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”


ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES:  Watch It At Home – Fun But Overextended Silliness

ANCHORMAN 2:  THE LEGEND CONTINUES runs 119 minutes, which is rather too much of a not-bad thing (the original Anchorman, in 2004, was a brisk 94 minutes), but it pales in comparison to the accumulated length of the marketing campaign that’s been shoving Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy down our collective throats for the past several months.  When the “Ron Burgundy shills for Dodge Durango” spots started, they seemed funny and off-beat, but somewhere along the line of “Ron Burgundy pitches a bunch of other products,” “Ron Burgundy shows up on real news shows,” “Ron Burgundy accepts honorary awards,” “Ron Burgundy writes an autobiography,” and all the other gimmicks that have come into play, the tongue in cheek part of it all has been overwhelmed by the sheer bulk, and Ferrell and his alter ego have become as overexposed as… well, as a real celebrity, and who needs that?  The movie itself almost feels like an afterthought.

Like the first Anchorman, the sequel is co-written by Ferrell and director Adam McKay, and it’s overstuffed but unambitious.  This time the locale has been switched from San Diego to New York, where Ron’s marriage to Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) breaks up as soon as she’s promoted to being a network news anchor and he’s fired.  After some time drunkenly announcing shows at Sea World, he’s recruited to join what is, in 1980, a new invention:  a 24-hour cable news network.  Naturally, he gets the band back together–sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), whose fast food restaurant sells fried “chicken of the cave” (you don’t want to know); action news reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), who’s been photographing kittens; and weatherman/supreme lummox Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), who didn’t realize he wasn’t dead–and they head to the big city in an RV.  They face a new foe at the network in arrogant, smooth-faced Jack Lime (James Marsden), but they stumble onto the secret of cable news success:  sensationalized patriotism and meaningless, overhyped non-stories.  Soon they’re bigger than they’ve ever been.

The rise to glory part of the tale is bright and sometimes effectively satirical.  The original gang is great together, and Carell’s blissfully moronic Brick has been given a soulmate in Chani (Kristen Wiig), who shares with him a genuine uncertainty about whether lipstick is candy, and who can’t figure out the subtleties of answering a phone–their brain-dead romance is a thing of beauty, and it’s one of the few things in Anchorman 2 that never overstays its welcome.

The movie’s second half doesn’t keep up the pace.  Ferrell and McKay don’t turn the corner on their jokes:  when a newly single Ron gets involved with his ferocious African-American boss Linda (Meagan Good) and goes to dinner at her family’s home, we already know that he’s going to say every conceivable inappropriate thing that a white man can say at a table full of educated black people, and the trick would have been to find a twist in that situation–instead, Ferrell and McKay just pile on the gags, eventually hitting a point of diminishing returns.

Anchorman 2‘s latter portion also features some ill-advised moralizing (Ron realizes that reporting fake news is bad), a tiresome amount of family sentiment, and a very extended sequence where Ron goes temporarily blind, which has some terrific comic beats, but is just an unnecessary left turn as something introduced 90 minutes into the movie.  There’s also a case of sequelitis, in which everything from the first movie has to be repeated, except bigger.  Here it’s the first Anchorman‘s most celebrated set-piece, the rumble between competing news anchor teams, which is turned into a celebrity cameo extravaganza–the problem being that they clearly couldn’t get all those big names in the same place on the same day, so everyone had to be photographed separately, and no comic rhythm develops beyond “Hey, look–it’s [fill in the blank]!”, since the performers can only interact through editing and a few trick shots.  McKay, to put it mildly, isn’t the kind of visual stylist who could transform the resulting mess into something ingenious.

None of this is to say that Anchorman 2 fails to deliver on what most people want from it:  a fair number of dopey-funny Will Ferrell laughs.  Ron Burgundy is one of Ferrell’s best self-deluded overgrown baby characters, his sidekicks and Applegate are all fine foils (and Carell is better than that), and the newcomers fit right in.  (Let’s hope that the young actor who plays Ron and Veronica’s son was intended as a parody of bad child acting.)  Occasionally the movie’s dumdum humor is even clever.  As holiday season comedies go, Anchorman 2 isn’t as imaginative or accomplished as next week’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but it does the trick.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."