There’s a lot riding on Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Years of home video releases and endless quoting have transformed the first Anchorman into an unyielding comedic juggernaut. When Anchorman 2 was first announced, I was surprised by how much I had been looking forward to it. Seriously, I honestly had no idea I’d be chomping at the bit for this. I’ve always tried to be as level headed as I can when a movie gets a sequel, but for some reason, I was trapped in a glass case of emotion.
With most comedy sequels failing to grasp at why its predecessor was successful, it’s natural to assume Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues would crash and burn as it loses the uniqueness that made it a cult classic (I’m sure the relentless, seemingly desperate advertisement tirade Ferrell has been on didn’t help matters). You can argue how necessary or not this sequel is all day, but you’d be missing something important. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is damn funny. You’d be hard pressed to find a more hilarious film this year.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Director: Adam McKay
Release Date: December 18, 2013
Reviewing comedies is hard. While part of me wants the majority of the review to read something along the lines of “this joke was funny” or “too many jokes didn’t land here,” comedy is subjective and my opinion of the jokes told here will be completely different from yours. That’s why I like to see comedies in a packed theater. If I find something funny, I try to take notice if others do as well. I don’t form my whole opinion on what others think (because that would invalidate this review and turn into into some sort of census), but I do like to gauge the popularity of some gags. If I think something feels off about a particular line or sequence, and seem to be the only person that notices it, then it becomes a matter of delivery than a fundamental issue. To put this all in perspective, the first Anchorman is full of jokes like these.
The first film became such a juggernaut because it’s infinitely quotable, but what few seem to mention, are the egregious rough patches in the middle of the film. Unfortunately like its predecessor, Anchorman 2 shares the same problem. It’s all in the comedic fundamentals: timing, delivery, and punchline. If a particular joke fails in one of these aspects, the whole thing falls apart. With Anchorman 2, when it’s four main actors (Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, and Steve Carrell) aren’t the ones delivering the jokes, stuff falls flat. Mind you, some of these things could be funny (and are when in the capable hands of one of the many, many cameos) but stilted delivery cripples about 2/3s of the film.
In order to fully illustrate the stilted delivery problem (and a few others), I’m going to spoil two cameos (although that’s inherently a problem in itself). I’d hate to do this, but I can’t jump around the issue. So I’ll at least ease up a bit and won’t tell when or where they’re featured. You see, Anchorman 2 dates itself pretty heavily. The first Anchorman‘s greatest quality was its timelessness as it’s endlessly rewatchable. You could pop the DVD in and still laugh years down the road. But you won’t be able to do that with A2. The sequel is obviously trying to craft the same kind of culture bubble the first one did, but the numerous outside pop culture references stick out far too much.
You see, Drake and Kanye West are in the film. They have bit parts, but boy are they terrible. Their lines don’t land, their delivery needs work, and what they’re given just isn’t that good. It all cries of that forced “Hey, put me in the movie!” thing behind the scenes. But at least their parts are over quickly. Thankfully, there are numerous cameos from many famous faces and most of them are the greatest thing you’ll see all year. There’s a big name in the mix that I reeeeeally hope doesn’t get spoiled for you before you see it. Luckily, those famous cameos will most likely seem funny even if you see A2 a few times.
Replayability plays a key role in how well a comedy can stand the test of time, and Anchorman 2 might be good now…but might not be so later. There are references to CNN, BP Oil, MTV, and plenty of those “ironically name celebrities and make fun of their unfortunate futures” jokes. It just doesn’t gel with what Anchorman 2 wants to do. But the weird part of all of this is, when the jokes do hit, they hit hard. And as much as I talked about the film’s fundamental issues, the main cast is spectacular. The paper thin personas of the Channel Four News Team have been exaggerated to great effect. Everyone is more racist, more crude (but not in a lewd or disgusting way), and if you’ve fallen in love with these guys, you’ll fall in love with them again. Oh and Steve Carrell as Brick Tamland? Fabulous.
Normally I’d say retreading familiar grounds is a bad thing, but A2 makes it work wonders (Besides, if it didn’t reference old faithfuls, I’m sure fans would be disappointed). You can expect some of the old faithful jokes with added flair. And while I don’t like a lot of Anchorman 2‘s stilted delivery (no more child actors please), it’s hard to not laugh and how ridiculously cartoonish everything gets. It’s one of those things you have to see. There’s a wonderful use of a quick cut, a play on the old “Cruise control steers my car” gag, and the finale is definitely going down as something I’ll endlessly quote for years to come.
I’m definitely worried about how Anchorman 2 is going to hold up down the line, but I laughed so damn much. Right now it’s too early to tell if it’ll withstand multiple watches or even if that matters in the grand scheme of things, but you should definitely witness it for yourself. If you haven’t seen the first one, you’ll probably be lost as A2 is built as an odd companion piece to the original rather than craft its own identity. BUT if you love the first film (or just want to hear jokes, and don’t care about much else), you’re going to love Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
Even after writing this review and going over it dozens of times, I’m still not even sure if it succeeds as a movie. What I do know, however, is I have a huge smile on my face long after I walked out of the theater. And in the end, that’s all you really want from a comedy, right?