It took confidence to subtitle 2004’s Anchorman as The Legend Of Ron Burgundy, yet a legend it has become – a word-of-quote cult hit that is arguably Hollywood’s most influential comedy of modern times, catapulting producer Judd Apatow and Steve Carell to the A-list and establishing the star-director team of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay as the go-to guys for rambling surrealism.
With the long-delayed sequel, no chances have been taken. Forget the slow burn of discovery; Anchorman 2 arrives with the fanfare (and expectations) of a blockbuster. Yet comedy is the hardest genre to keep fresh. Should the one-time KVWN Channel 4 team seek out new headlines, or recycle the gags that everybody fell in love with?
The short answer: both. To their credit, Ferrell and McKay use the time lag to try something different, swapping the original’s 1970s setting for the big, bad 1980s. The sequel is hung on the birth of 24-hour rolling news, bringing new impetus to the newsroom scenes and a vein of satire about dumbed-down standards that emerges from Ron’s dim-witted exuberance.
But this being Anchorman, Ferrell and McKay can’t stick to the autocue; the actual plot lacks a… well, anchor. When Ron recalls his misadventures – dating his boss (Meagan Boss), going blind, rearing a baby shark – you’d be forgiven for forgetting how these events occurred. Only the first bears any relevance to the film’s setting. The others? Just part of a sprawl that knows nor cares how to stop.
Indeed, it’s worth noting that (as with original spin-off Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie) McKay has assembled a new cut from deleted jokes (included on Blu-ray, longer and raunchier than the theatrical edit), meaning there are now four Anchorman movies.
Then again: why not? As Burgundy reunites his team, the chemistry remains intact, although the allocation of laughs has been focus-grouped by a near-decade of fan worship. So Carell’s Brick Tamland rivals Ferrell for screen time, stealing every scene he’s in and delivering the film’s funniest non-sequiturs in a romantic subplot with Kristen Wiig. Notable casualties, however, are Paul Rudd and Christina Applegate, who both now essentially play straight roles.
Surprisingly, the in-jokes are restrained until the final act, when Ferrell and McKay get bored of resisting the fans: cue jazz flute, Sex Panther and the mother of all news team battles. While excessive in its A-list cameos and pyrotechnic bombast, there’s the sense by this point that Ron has run out of news.
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