No one was more surprised by the cult hit status of ‘Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy’ (2004) than its creators. Their hopes were that audiences would connect with the buffoon antics of the Action News Team headed by a misogynist idiot, but what they got was one of the most beloved and quoted comedies of the past decade. A sequel was demanded, and nearly a decade later it has been delivered. But does ‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’ expand on the original, or is it just much of the same?
When his wife Veronica (Christina Applegate) is chosen for a major promotion at a major New York station and Ron (Will Ferrell) is fired, he falls into despair until he is asked to work on a revolutionary news concept: a 24-hour news channel. He assembles his original news team together again and takes over the graveyard shift, where their combination of sexist and banal reporting get them killer ratings and invents a whole new style of news reporting in the process. But as always with Ron Burgundy, the higher he flies, the further he has to fall.
To begin with, ‘Anchorman 2’ seems to be following comfortably in its predecessor's footsteps. The first film was never a great film, but it had a charm to it, especially in the relationship between Ron and his news team (David Koechner, Paul Rudd and Steve Carrell), and the first act of the sequel makes the most out of their undeniable chemistry. However, once Ron begins his rise to the top, the film very quickly falls apart, leaving the supporting characters behind, becoming bloated and tedious. It begins to rely too much on the audience's familiarity with the first film, and you start to feel like you’ve heard this all before. The biggest problem with the film though is that it’s just too goddamn long. At two hours, it doesn’t have the necessary rhythm to make the comedy work, especially when the film falls into almost-stream-of-consciousness absurdity that has little to do with the narrative. Often the film seems to be trying too hard to get a laugh; take the epic news team battle at the end. It’s too full of celebrities that are only there because of reasons, and it takes so long to introduce the combatants that by the time the fighting starts, the comedy is gone. At half an hour shorter, it could have been far more effective and less indulgent. And this is a great pity, as the film has a cracking premise, and hidden within the flabby comedy is a genuine statement on the banality of the news business. There is a brain in there somewhere, but it seems to have been neglected in order to shove as many jokes into the film as possible.
That said, there are some great moments in the film. Steve Carrell is still the best thing about these films as unfathomable idiot weatherman Brick. His commitment to his insanity is quite breathtaking, and even with the scale of his stupidity it still comes across as genuine. This is the complete opposite to Will Ferrell, who is as annoying and indulgent as ever. The man seems to believe that a funny voice and loud noises equals comedy, and when his co-stars fall away in the second half of the film, there’s nothing to temper it. ‘Anchorman 2’ offers many a comic gem and genuine laughs, but its length is a major problem and by the time it finally comes to an end, you’ll probably be too exhausted to care. If only it hadn’t tried so hard to be as funny as possible, it might have been as memorable as the film it follows.
PICTURE & SOUND
Paramount have given the film a gorgeous 1080p 2.35:1 transfer that really shows off the excellent 70s production design in the film. There’s a vintage sepia quality to the film very much in line with the original, and the transfer preserves these lovely tones and textures. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is also pretty stellar, especially as this is a film that takes full advantage of its period setting and utilises great music from the time. It’s a dynamic sound design, and well demonstrated with great pop and energy on Blu-ray.
‘Anchorman 2’ seems to be following comfortably in its predecessor's footsteps.
The extras package on offer here is enormous, with hours of extended and deleted scenes, outtakes and featurettes. There’s also a packed commentary with director Adam McKay, producer Judd Apatow and the four leads that’s a lot of fun and offers some interesting insight into how the film came about. And then there’s the big selling point of this release: a Super-Size cut of the film that runs for a whopping two and a half hours! Most of the jokes have been replaced or expanded, giving the weird sense of watching something familiar yet strangely different. The last thing this this film needed was to be any longer, but I’m sure some will find the prospect of more of this film and its often inane comedy an appealing possibility. There’s actually some really great moments hidden in there that probably would have been more effective in the original cut. What we have here is one very impressive extras package. If only more films had this much on offer, and films more in need of it than this one.