Monday, February 10, 2014

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues - 2013

"Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" - 2013
Dir. by Adam McKay - 1 hr. 59 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

Maybe the most thankless task any comedian can undertake is making a sequel to a hugely popular, widely successful comedy.  It's doomed to failure; comedy itself thrives on surprises, which are a lot less possible once everyone knows all of your characters and their quirks.  And most of the time, comedy sequels end up like a bad reproduction of what was great in the first place.  It was an incredible relief that "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" wasn't a bad film in itself, and even more of a relief that it was a really funny movie (if not quite up to the bar set by the first one).

Now, Ron Burgandy (Will Ferrell) and his news team and family are in the early 1980s, at the dawn of twenty-four hour news channels.  An early rift between Burgandy and his wife, lady anchorman Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) splits the family, and Ron ends up far worse off.  At his nadir, he's offered a job at GNN, an upstart twenty-four/seven news channel bankrolled by an Australian millionaire, Kench Allenby (Josh Lawson).  Burgandy assembles his team, and they head to New York for the launch.  Once there, they are shocked to find out that they've pulled the graveyard shift, and Burgandy makes an ill-conceived bet with the network's star, Jack Lime (James Marsden).  In a moment of desperation, Burgandy decides to give people what they want instead of what they need, which turns out to be a big boneheaded hit.

The big challenge of a sequel is how to keep the flavor of the first movie intact, and still allow room to try and surprise the audience.  In this instance, that means transplanting the core characters into a new environment, and fleshing out the movie with new characters.  This is a trade-off; one of the main delights of the first film was watching Christina Applegate bring it with the same intensity and fervor that Will Ferrell (and anyone else in that film, also) did, and their relationship is more of a back-burner deal this time around.  There is a whole new batch of co-workers with which Burgandy won't get along very well with, and a new romantic interest that is surely doomed from the very first meeting.  There's another romance this time around, between Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and Chani (Kristen Wiig), and literally each of their scenes together had me laughing uproariously.  It was to the point where Carell stole every scene he was in, and that's saying something.

On the whole, there were a lot of really great comedic scenes.  A couple of them were callbacks to the first "Anchorman," but all of the "where are they now" scenes for the news team were fantastic, too.  There just was a lot of funny material (and I wouldn't want to spoil any of it) that was funny just for the sake of being funny, but there was actually kind of a point to some of the humor as well.  While you're laughing, the point is made that all of the kinds of "news" programs that everyone claims to loathe, like celebrity news, kittens, and car chases, were probably created by rich blowhards like Kench Allenby and aggressive dolts like Ron Burgandy, and while we were all laughing at them, they took over.  Is that the entire point of the film?  No, but it's a strong subtext.

All of this adds up to a really solid comedy.  If someone watched this one first (which I suppose could happen), they probably would want to go back and see the first one, at which point they'd probably be blown away.  For a comedy sequel, the first bar that you have to clear is not wrecking the franchise, by which I mean that you can't make one so bad that it ruins the first one retroactively.  Mission accomplished.  Once that's accomplished (and it's harder than it seems, judging by the history of cinema), the question is whether or not it could stand on it's own, and I'd say "Anchorman 2" easily does that.  There's nothing quite as good here as Veronica seeing a rainbow and telling Ron, "Do me on it," but some of the Carell/Wiig stuff is close in it's own twisted way.  And after this film and the two of them voicing characters in the second "Despicable Me," there had damned well better be a full-on rom-com starring those two in the works already.  For now, they have the best scenes in a pretty good comedy, definitely one worth checking out.

3.5 / 5 - Theatre

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