There was never going to be a tougher act for Will Ferrell to follow than 2004’s classic Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. The film is not only one of the funniest comedies of the last decade; it’s an integral part of pop culture at this stage. I rarely go for long without uttering one of Burgundy’s great one-liners. How on earth were the writers and actors behind the film supposed to top the original, a film so near perfection? Unfortunately, the sequel falls just short of the mark. While a perfectly funny, clever movie in its own right, I can’t help but think that the writers shouldn’t have messed with perfection. After all, Anchorman is kind of a big deal.”
The continuing story of Ron Burgundy and his amusingly inept news team picks up in New York City: Ron and his wife, fellow anchor Veronica Corningstone, have settled down into newsreading bliss. But when Ron is fired and Veronica promoted, Ron’s life takes a turn for the worse. He turns to his news team in an attempt to win back the journalism world – so far, so good. Part of the genius of Anchorman was that it focussed solely on Burgundy’s obsession with fame, fortune and reading the news: its sequel has far too much going on. Plots about marriage, news rivalry, the importance of family, the beginnings of “pop” news and a biting satire of the same all pool together to create something rather messy. Rumours abound that the original cut of the film ran to about three hours – the film could have done with another cut. It’s definitely overlong for a comedy, bloated with its own ideas and it weighs down what should be some great gags. While some of the plots are hilarious on their own – Brick’s love affair, for example – they get lost in the mishmash of ideas Ferrell and McKay have created.
It’s forgiveable that the writers have a lot of material though. Convoluted, excessive plots can be overlooked if Anchorman 2 is funny. Is it? Well…yes and no. I laughed a lot in the cinema – the jokes come thick, fast and occasionally inappropriate. Old quips are reused to brilliant comic effect. If anything, these are the funnier moments in Anchorman 2 – the new jokes don’t hold a candle to the characters of Brick Tamland or Brian Fantana. However, while I can call to mind a dozen one-liners from Anchorman, not a single joke from the sequel has stuck in my head. The film is undoubtedly funnier when rehashing old jokes, though the comic performances are once again spot on. Steve Carrell as Brick Tamland is absolutely brilliant – he’s given more screen time in this film, and never fails to incite laughter. Ferrell, too, is ludicrous and hilarious as Ron Burgundy: the man’s comic timing is impeccable, and even if the jokes aren’t fantastic, the performances of the main characters are.
Anchorman 2 is undoubtedly more satirical than its predecessor: here, not only do 1970’s male chauvinism and racism get a kicking, but so does Fox News, CNN and the like. The satire actually works brilliantly – some of the funnier parts of the film involve absolutely ridiculous news stories that anyone can see on American channels at 3am. Ron Burgundy’s sexist ways shouldn’t be funny, but they are solely because they’re so over the top and silly. The satire, like the rest of the film, occasionally feels like it’s trying too hard – the scene where Ron meets his (black, female) boss for the first time comes to mind – but on the whole the satire of the sexist, racist, silly atmosphere of the time works really well.
Given the time frame (the first film is almost a decade old!), wealth of material and cultural phenomenon of the first film, it’s easy to see why Anchorman 2 was made. Ferrell is obviously totally at home in his characters expensive suits, and he’s a joy to watch. It’s just a shame that Anchorman 2 couldn’t have been a little pared down – the madness begins to grate after almost two hours and the multi-layered plot feels bonkers just for the sake of it. Anchorman is an undisputed classic, and sadly, the sequel is by no means an unfunny film, it fails to stay as classy as the original.