It would be easy to praise Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues as more of the same. (Or, if you’re one of those people for whom the improv-fueled humor misses more than it hits, to dismiss it for the same reason.) Certainly, the long-awaited followup to 2004’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy doesn’t deviate from the overall template that has made its precursor one of the most quoted and referenced comedies of the last few decades. And it’s true that among Anchorman fans, the mere existence of Adam McKay’s new film is sales pitch enough. If you liked the first, you’ll like—and probably love—the second.
Yet the reasons one can be so reductive are actually pretty impressive in their own right. Unlike so many Hangovers these days, Anchorman 2 succeeds because it’s not a repetition of what worked in the first film, but, rather, a continuation. (As McKay himself says in a recent interview with Paste, this was purposeful.) As a result, with the exception of a rousing, cameo-crammed news team melee toward the end and a hint of jazz flute, Anchorman 2 is refreshingly light on winks, nudges and other forms of gratuitous fan service to the first film. McKay and co-writer Will Ferrell avoided erring to the other extreme, as well. To their credit, the duo seems to have realized you don’t have to reinvent the wheel—you just need to keep it rolling.
Anchorman 2 opens not long after the first film ended, with the magnificently mustachioed Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) at the top of his game—this time alongside co-anchor, wife and baby mama, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). Alas, things take a sudden turn for the worse, and Burgundy soon finds himself getting the old gang—Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Champ Kind (David Koechner) and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell)—back together. The four travel to New York City to be part of a fledgling 24-hour news network. Farcical hilarity ensues.
Among the new characters introduced in the Big Apple, debonair news anchor Jack Lime (James Marsden) and “Brick-ette” Chani (Kirstin Wiig) stand out, but let’s face it, this film belongs to Ferrell, Rudd, Koechner and Carell, a quartet of the absurd who inhabit their characters with an energy and commitment not seen since Steve McCroskey (Lloyd Bridges) bemoaned his decisions to quit drinking/smoking/amphetamines/sniffing glue.
The end result is not too far removed from the original film—visual and verbal jokes come tumbling one after another. Some hit, some miss, but regardless the result, the audience knows Burgundy and crew will keep swinging. It’s like an absurdity-fueled Home Run Gag Derby—all memory of even the feeblest of swings can be erased the next moment by a towering home run, and when a few in a row connect, it’s tears-inducing. (McKay and Ferrell deserve credit for a restrained acknowledgment of the scene-stealing power of Brick, giving the lover of lamp a few extra swings this time around with his very own sub-plot.)
With Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, McKay, Ferrell and company make a compelling case for the sequel that takes its time.
Writers: Adam McKay, Will Ferrell
Starring: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, James Marsden, Harrison Ford, Kristen Wiig, Greg Kinnear
Release Date: Dec. 18, 2013