Thursday, 17 April 2014

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)
Directed by Adam McKay; Starring Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Christina Applegate

Rating: 3/5

Perhaps it was inevitable that the long anticipated sequel to the cult film that, along with similar contemporary classics such as Meet the Parents (2000), Zoolander (2001) and Dodgeball (2004) all but defined early 2000s comedy, cementing the already burgeoning careers of its stars and making household names out of Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, et al, would have very high expectations, and be met with a certain amount of disappointment.

This doesn’t have to be the case with all comedy sequels, and indeed some of the most beloved and re-watched films in my collection over the years have been back to back comedies, such as the Ace Ventura (1994, 1995) or Bill & Ted (1989, 1991) films, both of which feature sequels easily as good as the originals.

Trilogies, such as Austin Powers (1997, 1999, 2002) or The Naked Gun (1988, 1991, 1994) have their ups and downs but maintain a certain level of quality throughout. Meanwhile, Ghostbusters II (1989), Men in Black II (2002) and Wayne’s World 2 (1993) are perhaps not as strong as their predecessors, but retained their talent and remain integral parts of the narrative that are by no means cast aside by posterity.

Hype easily breeds disappointment, and I’m unlikely to be overexcited or giddy with anticipation when this kind of release occurs, so I’m rarely underwhelmed or otherwise.  A lacklustre sequel is not a personal affront on my loyalty to the original, and Anchorman 2 is a competent enough film, a well produced, big budget Hollywood comedy vehicle for its stars.

Yet as a sequel, bearing the uninspired and unnecessary subtitle The Legend Continues no less, Anchorman 2 is more like the relatively reprehensible Airplane II: The Sequel (1982) which paled in comparison to the golden original which is still enjoyed today. Both sequels carbon copy classic sequences from the original almost shot for shot, attempting to conceal their originality behind purported homage and call-backs.

Though the cast was reunited, at least Airplane II had the excuse that none of the original creative talent returned. Anchorman 2 was written by leading man Will Ferrell and returning director Adam McKay, so they’re only letting themselves down.

They’ve clearly tried to go bigger, under the assumption that it will mean better, making for a film that is even more surreal and absurd than the original. Even more so than the first film, Anchorman 2 is only feebly anchored in the real world, and the story shoots for a laugh so often that the whole picture becomes more of a hit and miss sketch show than a coherent narrative. Of course, this merely reflects the Saturday Night Live format under which most of the talent involved cut their teeth. This doesn’t mean it’s not funny or entertaining; far from it. The hits, after all, are still hits. At least they still have a ton of fun exploiting the ludicrous period fashion and hairstyles.

Ron Burgundy himself was always an endearing buffoon, but this time around he is utterly incompetent at everything he does, including being a father. This is offset only by his relatively inspired invention of sensationalist news to win a ratings war and apparently, ice skating (an allusion to 2007’s Blades of Glory?).

The rest of the returning cast continue to tread the same path as before, but as caricatures of themselves which appear even more conceited and despicable than usual, although sex-crazed Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) seems to have mellowed, remaining evermore the only sane man.

Ron wins it all and loses it all about three of four times over the course of the movie, but the driving force is a critique of the aforementioned 24 hour rolling news which typifies the excesses of the American media, eschewing true journalism in favour of car chases and patriotism.

The film is strongest during this satire, and weakest during the more derivative subplots which bulk to length to a rather overlong two hours. The final act comes out of nowhere just as the film is starting to drag, and then generates an entire separate arc, and the climax is yet another news team battle even longer than the first, with celebrity cameos coming thick and fast. So while Anchorman 2 still delivers a few solid laughs over the course of a couple of hours, my advice to anyone who finds it utterly unpalatable is to just try and remember that the original still exists.

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