Stars: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Kristen Wiig, Steve Carell, Vince Vaughn, James Marsden, Meagan Good | Written by Adam McKay, Will Ferrell | Directed by Adam McKay
Like many people in my age group, my friends and I fell in love with the first Anchorman film over beery evenings with piles of DVDs. We would then spend hours, days and weeks trading our favourite quotes, implementing them into our everyday lives and generally annoying the hell out of anyone who wasn’t as enamoured with Will Ferrell’s screwball comedy as we were. We’d come to the film as fans of Zoolander, Starsky & Hutch and Dodgeball, but Anchorman felt like the last word in the frat pack’s slew of semi-improvised surrealist comedies. As such, Anchorman will always offer nostalgic pleasures for me, as well as a script that somehow never loses its funniness despite some serious repetition.
It’s because of the strength of the original film’s cult following, of which I’m proud to be a part, that Ferrell, director Adam McKay and company have made this long-awaited sequel and taken pay cuts to bring it to the screen. My dedication to the first film is perhaps best exemplified by my purchasing a region 1 copy of Wake Up Ron Burgundy without any obvious means to play it at the time (this was prior to its region 2 release). Wake Up is already a kind of sequel to the first film, made up of a ridiculous amount of unused footage and dropped plotlines from the original film’s production, but after nine years, we’ve finally got a new Ron Burgundy movie proper.
Anchorman 2 picks up some years after the first film. Ron (Ferrell) and wife Veronica (Christina Applegate) are presenting the news in New York. Unfortunately, Ron is fired when Veronica is promoted and the pair split up. A short while later, Ron is offered the opportunity to present on the world’s first 24 hour news channel. Taking his chance, Ron reassembles the news team (Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and David Koechner) and gives his career another roll of the dice, whilst also trying to maintain a relationship with his estranged son (Judah Nelson).
The film is very long, rather unfocussed and on occasion, ridiculously self-indulgent. And I really liked it. It’s clearly been made with no one but fans in mind and if that makes it too weird and impenetrable to newcomers, then so be it. Occasionally, it falls back on having Brick shouting something to conclude a scene with a laugh, but to its credit, Anchorman 2 doesn’t rely too much on repeating gags from the first film. Yes, there are a few callbacks (most notably in the film’s excellent climatic scene), but mostly it makes a fist of trying new jokes and situations.
The cast from the first film are bolstered by some choice additional actors, perhaps most noticeably Kristen Wiig as Chani, a similarly dim-witted love interest for Brick. There are also numerous cameos to look out for, most occurring during the climax.
Interestingly, the film is more focussed on its actual setting than the first. Whereas the newsroom environment was pretty much incidental to the Ferrell and company mucking about, Anchorman 2 makes a point of satirising the proliferation of ‘infotainment’ and corporate practices. I mean, it’s not exactly Network or anything and it’s a slightly soft target, but Ron’s ratings grabbing patriotism is a source of some good laughs. Having said that, Anchorman 2 is still basically a sandbox for the comics to throw all manner of wackiness at the wall and see what sticks, if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphors. Whatever doesn’t stick is generally forgotten about as something new is being thrown at the poor wall shortly afterwards. Without wishing to spoil anything, expect to see comedic situations involving RV mishaps, figure skating and shark rearing, amongst other things.
Based on the fact that they got a whole other film out of the cut scenes from the first film, I think it’s fairly evident that a similar ‘film lots of scenes and stick them together afterwards’ approach has been utilised in the sequel too. On occasion the copy and paste nature of it seems a little too obvious, but on the whole Anchorman 2 is a film that is likely to make you very happy indeed and, most importantly, make you laugh lots and lots. Treat yourself to some Burgundy this Christmas.