When the first “Anchorman” came out nearly a decade ago, I very clearly remember sitting in a sparsely crowded theater with my wife and I being the only ones audibly laughing at the exploits of Ron Burgundy and the Channel 4 news team.
The world pretty much greeted this absurd movie with shrugged shoulders, so-so box office numbers, and mixed reviews. But then it found new life on DVD and my quiet assertion that it was the funniest movie of the past 20 years became widely accepted as lines from the movie became a boon to the t-shirt industry.
So, when “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” was announced, I knew I was going to have to work hard to tamp down my expectations. The successful comedy sequel is a rare creature, mostly because so much great humor is based on surprise.
The first key is to get all the principals back or else you’ve got yourself a “Caddyshack 2” situation and nobody wants that. “Anchorman 2” easily checks that one off the list as Will Ferrell is back as Burgundy (accept no substitutes) along with Paul Rudd as Brian Fantana, Steve Carell as Brick Tamland, and David Koechner (easily the guy most thrilled about this sequel) as Champ Kind.
Christina Applegate (an underrated but critical component to the success of the first “Anchorman”) is also back as Veronica Corningstone, Ron’s wife, co-anchor, and now the mother of his child. Adam McKay has returned to the director’s chair with a script he co-wrote with Ferrell to once again play conductor to this orchestra of comedic insanity.
Next, you need to inject some fresh blood, and “Anchorman 2” does a fair job here, bringing in Kristen Wiig to play Chani, Brick’s equally dense love interest; James Marsden as Ron’s newsroom rival, Jack Lime; and Megan Good as Linda Jackson, Ron’s new boss and occasional hook-up once his marriage to Veronica crumbles.
Now comes the tricky part, which is keeping the chemistry intact without rehashing all the jokes from the first movie, a malady best known as “The Hangover” Syndrome. Fortunately, the gang has plenty of new things to do as we leap forward to the early 1980s as Ron reassembles his news team in New York City for the launch of a new 24-hour news channel.
The only major retread from the first movie is so gloriously over-the-top that it just has to be forgiven.
Lastly, as a bonus, does the movie actually have anything to say? The answer, surprisingly, is yes. There are moments of brilliantly pointed satire directed at our modern news media as surely only a buffoon like Ron Burgundy could have shifted the focus of broadcast journalism towards attention-grabbing fluff like car chases, celebrity gossip, and features on puppies. It was his fault, right?
So, now that we’ve firmly established “Anchorman 2” as a successful comedy sequel, the question then becomes how does it stand up to the ridiculous brilliance of the first movie? Well, for starters, my wife and I weren’t the only ones in the theater laughing this time (which includes one dude who yowled like a howler monkey even during some not-so-funny parts) so that has to count for something.
I’ve been purposefully light on details as I would hate to spoil anything, but I will say that fans of the first movie will not be disappointed. This sucker is dense, with jokes crammed into every scene and much like the first “Anchorman” can probably only be appreciated at its full height after repeat viewings.
It’s probably a little overlong by about 15 minutes, but I’m not coming too hard at the funniest movie of the year. I mean, they did have almost 10 years of material saved up. The most important thing to know is that the legend is preserved and it’s only going to grow.
“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, drug use, language, and comic violence.