The much anticipated and much hyped sequel to the original Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) has finally arrived to a fair amount of fanfare, backed by a mass market media campaign that its predecessor could only have dreamed of. There’s been TV spots, cinema advertising, soft drink tie-ins and of course the mobile phone hook-up for Burgundy Wednesday.
And therein lies the issue. This second film feels like a cash in. I know it’s easy to dismiss any sequel as such but this seems to suffer more than most, even more than Die Hard 17: Die Harderererererer. You see, part of the charm of the Anchorman was that it felt, not only quite original, but free and improvised. What I mean by this is that there was no expectation from it, it was basically a group of very talented performers completely uninhibited by time, pressure or script that were allowed to let their comedic juices flow. The result was lightning in a bottle. Even though the original was basically a flop at the cinema it eventually found an audience on DVD and became a monster hit. One of the most quotable films of the last 25 years became the Shawshank of the comedy world.
This does not have that same vibe at all. That’s not to say it isn’t funny, it often is. We chuckled along for most of the film without ever bursting out into full on guffaws. However, the jokes feel forced and a little ruthless. Whereas the first film was heavily improvised here the jokes are too scripted. You can almost see them sat in a room going “wait…..Anchorman fans will love this one, it sounds just like this joke from the 1st film….” Even down to Ron’s expressions of dis-belief. I’m positive that the first time he proclaimed “Sweet Grandma’s spatula” that everyone around him corpsed completely, here we are just given 2 dozen variations on the same style, (although “by the Hymen of Olivia Newton John” was a highlight).
We are enormous fans of the first film and wanted to love this so much but just couldn’t. That’s not to say that is was crushed by the weight of expectation though. We actually approached this with an open mind and heart but we just couldn’t connect with it.
The basic plot outline is that sometime after the events of the original, Ron and his news team have gone their separate ways. He is a success living in New York with his wife Veronica (a woefully underused Christina Applegate) and their boy Walter. He gets fired because, well, he’s useless and ends up at the desk of new 24hr news channel GNN via a Blues Brothers-esque “putting the band back together” sequence.
What follows is a mix of silliness that diehard fans will probably love. For every joke that lands there are 4 that don’t. There are two that really stand out. Firstly they try to recreate the hilarious “sex panther” scene only this time with condoms .It just aint funny. Secondly, a really poorly conceived and judged Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner scene that is just awful and many will just consider to be outright racist. Ron Burgundy speaking jive and calling a seemingly middle-class black family “pipe hittin bitches” just made us cringe.
The fact that this film was agreed, written, directed, edited and released in 11 months really shows. It seems like Adam Mackay (returning director) and Ferrell hit upon satirising CNN and ran with it and didn’t give much thought to anything else. The digs at said news channel are about as subtle as Camp Kinds “Whammy” catch-phrase. Just as it’s becoming too preachy about what is and isn’t proper news they throw in a star-studded re-hash of the first films fight which although totally unoriginal is actually one of the highlights if for nothing else how unbelievably surreal it is.
This review could go on for another 1000 words about how frustrating and infuriating this film actually is but we need to stop now because the more we think about it the worse it gets.
All in all it’s a hugely disappointing re-tread of the vastly superior first film with barely an original thought. There are funny moments but not enough to warrant the ludicrously expensive trip to the local multi-plex. Don’t waste your money watching this, it’s shit.