by Bob Garver
Dec. 23, 2013. A few minutes after exiting “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” I posted to Facebook that the film had three types of gags: Will Ferrell screaming, Steve Carell spouting nonsense, and beaten-to-death celebrity cameos. A friend of mine later said that he was going to see the film based on my post. I guess he was just impressed to hear that the film had three types of gags. But I never said they were funny gags (in fact, I thought I implied that they weren’t) and for the record, they aren’t.
The film is a sequel to the 2004 blockbuster “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” The film was an enduring comedy, lending itself well to repeated viewings and quotes. This won’t be one of those times where I question the wisdom in continuing a dead or nonexistent franchise like I did with “Riddick” or “The Best Man Holiday.” This sequel is definitely eagerly anticipated, though I do question the wisdom in waiting nine years for this update instead of striking while the iron (and the cast) was hot.
The new film trades the 70s for the 80s and local news for 24-hour cable news. Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) gets fired from his anchor job in San Diego and somehow gets hired for a risky, but arguably more appealing venture on a national stage. He’s allowed to reunite with his old news team: partying playboy Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), vulgar cowboy Champ Kind (David Koechner) and unpredictable man-child Brick Tamland (Carell). The foursome are given a graveyard shift on a debuting cable news network and turn the format on its head, throwing out journalistic integrity for shameless ratings grabs. In other words, they invent all the cliches of modern cable news.
Subplots wander around without much urgency. Ron goes through a messy breakup with his wife (Christina Applegate) and briefly the two go on dates where they swap disconnected one-liners. Ron loses his vision and spends several months in isolation feeling sorry for himself. He also feuds with a rival news anchor (James Marsden) and this leads to a battle royal among several cable news sources of varying respectability.
The film’s humor is very much what you’d expect, which is a problem. Take Will Ferrell. In the first “Anchorman,” his scream-based comedy style hadn’t yet worn out its welcome. In the nine years since then, it has, and it’s largely annoying now. The same can be said about Brick’s “nonsense” shtick. Back in 2004, this kind of random humor was considered imaginative, even endearing. Now it’s really noticeable that the film’s writers were just goofing around in a meeting that itself was more fun than the finished product. And no, taking the “Beavis and Butthead” approach by having Brick and the Wiig character say these lines to each other doesn’t give them another dimension, it just means we have to endure twice as many of them. But at least the main cast gets lucky with a funny line here and there. As for all the cameos, you’re supposed to be so busy cheering these people just for showing up that you won’t notice that they have absolutely nothing funny to say.
George Carlin once said that “America can be counted on to do one of two things: take a good idea and run it completely into the ground or take a bad idea and run it completely into the ground.” Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” exemplifies this quote perfectly. Whether you think that Ferrell’s screaming, Brick’s nonsense and a multitude of cameos make for good ideas or bad ideas, please know that this film runs them all completely into the ground.
One and a half stars out of five.