“Anchorman 2” is a funny sort of hybrid creation: part sequel, part remake with just a little bit of reboot thrown in. The story begins pretty much where we left off, with Ron and Victoria happily co-anchoring the midday news and enjoying wedded bliss outside the newsroom, and enough time has passed since the first film for Burgundy and Cornerstone to have a six year old son. But when the venerable evening news anchor Mack Harken (Harrison Ford) retires, Veronica is given the chance to become the first ever female evening news anchor and Ron is…fired.
With Ron and Veronica’s relationship on the rocks, Ron hits the skids and eventually finds himself drunk and slumming as a compere at Sea World. Salvation appears in the shape of a job offer from Garth Holliday to join fledgling network GNN who are putting together the world’s first ever rolling 24 hour news station. But can Ron Burgundy reunite his scattered news team, reclaim the number one news spot, rekindle his relationship with Veronica and connect with his son? It certainly won’t be easy, or particularly linear, but it will be funny. Very, very funny.
Although it’s most definitely a sequel, by quickly breaking apart the happy ending of the first film, “Anchorman 2” frees itself up to tackle some of the same story beats again and so sometimes feels like a remake or reboot. There’s another rivalry with a hotshot new anchor, Jack Lime (a superbly smug James Marsden) and a new romance, and social challenge, in the form of feisty African American network boss Linda Jackson (Meagan Good). Of the original news crew, fan favourite Brick (Steve Carrell) gets much more to do this time round, including the most successful of the side plots, thanks to the addition of Kirsten Wiig, who brings genuine heart and sweetness to the most bizarre romance you’ll have ever seen on screen. Will Ferrell brings all his usual bag of tricks to the swaggering lunacy of Ron Burgundy but age is catching up with him and there are a few fleeting moments where the hair, makeup and his expression make him look like a nightmarish reimagining of Sir Bruce Forsyth.
There are nods to the gags and set pieces of the first film but with a more generous running time and a greater confidence, writer/ star Will Ferrell and writer/ director Adam McKay don’t skimp on adding in new wrinkles or taking the story up a notch or two with some surreal twists and diversions. It’s just as uneven as the first film, though, and it’s just as easy to spot the scenes where the cast were let loose to improvise. As with the first film and it’s pieced-together companion “Wake Up Ron Burgundy”, there are no doubt multiple takes and you may not always agree they used the best ones in the film. Some gags fall flat or grate, some are toe-curlingly embarrassing (but funny) and many are laugh out loud hilarious. There is, of course, a reimagining of the best scene from the first film – the gang fight – but this time they up the ante, the star-powered cameos and the insanity all the while taking a sly and sustained dig at the news media of today.
One thing this film does have in abundance that its predecessor lacked is a point to make, and it’s a valid one. Whereas the first film was content to poke fun at the foibles and institutional prejudices of the 1970s, “Anchorman 2” makes several salient points about the importance of proper news reporting and what we now commonly accept as ‘news’. But there’s no heavy handed moralising, just an illustration of how far we’ve allowed standards to slip.
“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” is a pleasing sequel/remake/reboot that retreads familiar ground but invariably does it better than the first time round. It may not convert many doubters of the first “Anchorman” film but it will more than satisfy fans and there’s little doubt it will end up being one of the most quotable films of 2013. Taking nine years to arrive, the legend of Ron Burgundy may not have escalated quickly, but it’s definitely escalated successfully.