The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

So for anyone who lives under a rock, the sequel to 2004's Anchorman hit theaters recently, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, raking in some solid if not huge numbers. It's a daunting task making an unnecessary sequel that follows an original film that is considered by many -- myself as well -- to be a comedy classic. Oh, and it's been nine years since the original was released? This sequel isn't the most timely of follow-ups, but director Adam McKay and star and fellow writer Will Ferrell waited until they could devote the right amount of time to actually writing the follow-up. Is it worth seeking out? You bet.

Having left San Diego and Channel 4 behind him, legendary news anchor Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) is living the high life in New York City, co-anchoring the nightly news with his wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christine Applegate). Well, he was living the high life. Called in thinking he's getting a promotion to a national network, Ron finds himself out of a job when Veronica is promoted instead. He's in a bad place now only to receive another job offer, a new news station that will be on television 24 hours a day. Ron is able to assemble his old news team, Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Champ Kind (David Koechner) and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), and heads to New York City to rebuild his reputation. The news world has changed though, and Ron and Co. must adjust. Can they manage it?

There are certain movies where plot descriptions are beyond unnecessary. This is one of them. Do you like Ron Burgundy? Did you like Anchorman? If you said yes to either of those questions, you're going to head out and see this movie, story be damned. Though a sequel had been rumored for years, it finally came to fruition this past year when McKay and Ferrell revealed they had been working on a script, really devoting the time that script deserved to get it to theaters. Some nine years since the original was released, this isn't the most timely of sequels, but it's one that audiences have been looking forward to. We've been carpet-bombed for several months now with ads and appearances from Ferrell as Burgundy, the movie even under-performing some in theaters. If you read nothing else from this review, read this. If you liked the original, you'll like this one. Is it as good? No, but that would be almost impossible to do.

Instead, it uses the similar formula while adding some new wrinkles to keep things fresh and funny. How do they manage? Well, as dumb as the humor may be at times, it's also got some really smart (and funny) moments. Assigned to the graveyard shift on the new 24-hours news network, Ron and the team start to think out of the box. What do audiences want to see? Praise for America, sports highlights of home runs, big touchdowns and ferocious slam dunks, footage of cute animals doing goofy things and anything and everything sexy. Yes, Ron Burgundy can see into the future. Surprise, surprise, the ratings go through the roof, audiences eating up the new approach to the news. There is a subtle smartness here, Ron insisting on more graphics on-screen, showing a car chase live on-air and guessing who's driving and what's going on, even a countdown of the greatest vaginas of the 20th Century. Okay, maybe they're not all smart, but they're funny.

My worry was that the cast would turn their characters into caricatures of themselves, even more so than they already are, but thankfully we avoid that. It's fun to see Ron's development as he starts to realize maybe he's not the great newscaster he thought he was. The story gets pretty ridiculous in terms of a character arc -- really going off the beaten track in the final act -- but above all else, it's for laughs. Single Ron is separated from his wife, but still wants to be close to his son, Walter (Judah Nelson), deals with Veronica's new boyfriend, Gary (Greg Kinnear), a psychiatrist he believes can read his mind, gets semi-controversial with an interracial relationship with his new boss (Meagan Good), plays some jazz flute while ice skating, and eventually, even must fight back from being blind. Yes, you read that right. It's ridiculous. The entire movie is. It commits to being both equal parts really stupid and really smart. Leading that charge is Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy, again stealing the show.

The best moments have Ron and the reassembled news team up to their usual hijinks, providing the movie's funniest moments. Finding out what Brian, Champ and Brick have been up to is priceless, a recruiting montage providing some great laughs in a scene you'd expect out of a men on a mission movie, not a screwball comedy. The quartet just has impeccable chemistry, each of the three supporting players given their chance to shine. You like the characters, like their shenanigans and can't help but laughs. Also look for James Marsden as Jack Lime, an established star in the news world who goes up against Ron as a new co-worker, Kristen Wiig as Chani, a secretary at the new station who has a budding romance with the equally odd Brick, and even Harrison Ford (yes, Harrison Ford) as Mack Tannen, a legendary newscaster. It's a ridiculously talented comedic cast.

SPOILERS I'm going to mention a couple scenes here -- one more than the other -- that features some good surprises and twists as the movie develops. Stop reading if you don't want to know. SPOILERS Both scenes are updates of iconic scenes from the original, the first being Brian Fantana's epic collection of condoms, one explanation after another bringing the house down, a nice update on his Sex Panther scene. The highlight though is a ridiculously over the top update of the Newscaster Fight (watch it HERE). The star power is nuts, the ante upped in every way possible. Ron and his team must fight the BBC (Sacha Baron Cohen), entertainment reporters (Tina Fey and Amy Poehler), ESPN (Will Smith), MTV (Kanye West), and the History Channel (Liam Neeson), accompanied by the ghost of Confederate general Stonewall Jackson (John C. Reilly). Oh, and Kirsten Dunst keys up the fight as the Maiden of the Clouds. And the Minotaur is fighting with the History Channel. It is truly nuts, completely ridiculous, and it works so, so well.

If there's a weakness here, it's that at 119 minutes, Anchorman 2 is a tad long. Some bits just work better than others. Ron and Co. driving in a Winnebago...well, cruise control driving, is inspired. A later montage of the team building up their new reputation is perfect, Ron and Brian at one point smoking crack on live TV. Other bits aren't as good. I'm looking at you Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig in some truly painful scenes. For the most part though, it works, one scene more nuts than the last. It's not on the level of the original, but it sure is funny. Enjoy it.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013): ***/****

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