Will Ferrell is one of those throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks sort of actors, which has blessed us with some truly unforgettable comedic performances and also given us a number of mixed to just plain unbearable experiences. The 2004 (wow, has it been that long really?) hit Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was a film that encompassed everything that Will Ferrel did right in his career while also setting a precedent for many things he would later go on to do that was all wrong.
Directly following the first Anchorman we got similarly styled films (but not nearly as successful ones) such as the fine Talledega Nights, the pedestrian Blades of Glory and the completely forgettable Semi-Pro. All those films shared a common thread, they all featured Will Ferrell playing this overreacting goofball heterosexual male who loves to bask in his maleness and this sort of madcap sense of out of left field comedy. None (with the possible exception of Step Brothers) could match the near perfection of lunacy or the fine balance between comedy and just plain stupidity that was the first Anchorman.
Now, after nine long years we have the highly anticipated sequel that everyone hopes will bring back that same lunacy and balance that made the first film so memorable and one of the best comedies released that decade. Read the full review after the break.
Review Vital Stats:
Theater: AMC 16 Tyler
Time: 10:45am, Dec. 18, 2013
Projector Type: Digital 2D
Film Rating: PG-13
Film Runtime: 1 hr 59 min
Loves: Will Ferrell (sometimes), Kristen Wiig
Likes: Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Neutral: Comedies that push the two hour mark
Hates: Will Ferrell's obsessive need to be too stupid (sometimes)
Call Guiness!: Most cameos in a movie ever? Maybe...
Nine years after the male chauvinist pig known as Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) fell in love with his then rival Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) for the number one news anchor position in San Diego California got married and had a kid, the unlikely couple have been thriving as co-anchors on the same news channel. Then out of nowhere Veronica is given a promotion to head news anchor and Ron finds himself fired and out on the street (someone finally noticed he wasn't very good at his job). Unable to cope with this embarrassment, Ron proceeds to hit rock bottom until a new opportunity presents itself with the chance to anchor on the new 24 hour news network GNN out of New York.
For all intents and purposes, this is the next and only possible direction the story (or legend) of Ron Burgundy could have gone. With the first film exploring females taking positions of power in the workplace, this sequel is nailing two birds with one stone by tackling the dual subjects of minorities in the workplace as well as the advent of what is known as sensationalist style news. Both of these subjects are ripe with material for Ron and his news team, comprised of Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Champ "Whammey" Kind (David Koechner) and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) to sink their sarcastic and exceedingly non-PC teeth into.
But there are two areas the film falters in that makes this long awaited sequel feel long winded instead. First and foremost is the film's unforgiving length. While it may seem that two hours isn't all that long, when dealing with a film that is basically just a string of gags and a constant barrage of actors improving their lines from scene to scene with no real clear objective in mind, the entire affair can become very mind-numbing. Likewise, there numerous unnecessary subplots and characters that add very little to nothing to the film other than to try and top the zany hi jinks of the first film.
For example, there is a large segment of the film's final act where Ron becomes blind after an accident (by the way, this is an exact rip off of what happened to Ferrell's character in Talladega Nights) and suddenly becomes about Ron trying to live with his new handicap, which as you can guess goes horribly wrong. Then you bring in his estranged wife and son, both of whom are absent through nearly the entire film aside from a couple of scenes in the middle who want to nurse him back to health and this even more bizarre happenstance where, since Ron decided to live on an isolated island inside a lighthouse, they catch and then proceed to raise a shark who was caught in a net.
Now, while Ferrell's enthusiasm to garner a few chuckles during this very long sequence still works on certain levels, it severely hinders the pace of the film and takes it away from the more interesting (and more funny) subjects such as Ron dealing with his inherent racism and the ever changing landscape of news reporting going from reporting actual news, to reporting news that makes people feel happy to eventually covering the hot topic of news being controlled by big corporations. It's not really expected for a film as admittedly stupid as this to approach this material with a critical eye, but at the same time it glosses over them in favor of pointless scenes such as Brick finding romance, which isn't nearly as funny as it probably seemed on paper.
Which leads us to the next problem with the film, it's just a little too stupid this time around. Case in point, Brick's romantic entanglement with the similarly socially awkward Chani (Kristen Wiig, who is completely wasted here). Brick was a scene stealer in the first film, "I love lamp!", but here he is just obnoxiously over the top and seems to be picking moments to act crazy instead of just being crazy. His introduction into the film where he is doing the Eulogy at his own funeral is particularly grating and unfunny to point of making this reviewer wince a couple of times at how badly the joke missed its mark.
All of the character introductions are a little too bizarre and unfunny come to think of it which is sad when one remembers these characters being a real highlight the first time around. Brian takes photos of kittens and talks to them sexually...alright. Champ runs a chicken shack where they serve up deep fried bats...alright. The first 20 to 30 minutes of the film is wasted with these overlong and completely unnecessary introductions to characters that have all been separated for some undisclosed reason. Thankfully the film picks up some steam when they finally reach New York and are introduced to probably the best new character introduced in the film, Jack Lime (James Marsden).
His interactions with Ferrell are priceless, as is the eventual bet that is made that leads to probably the best running gag in the film where Jack Lime must change his name legally to a not so glamorous one. Likewise, the introduction of Ron's new boss Linda Jackson (Meagan Good) is responsible for without a doubt the single best scene in the entire film where Linda takes Ron home to meet her family and Ron proceeds to try and connect with them in the only way he knows how, which includes some very racist stereotypes that only get more shocking the longer the dinner goes on.
But those scenes with Jack Lime and Linda Jackson are only small portions of a very overlong film that actually work. Sure, some of the banter between Ron and his team is still funny from time to time, but they never reach the same level of pure insanity that was in the first film. It sounds crazy to say this, but even with all the politically incorrect antics of Ron and his friends, this film feels overly tame compared to that first film. Simply being stupid isn't funny and this film seems to have replaced much of the witty edge that made the first film so memorable with a ton of stupid.
Is the film bad though? It's hard to say. The word that seems to spring to mind more than any other is disappointing. The ingredients were there to make and serve up a great meal but in trying to replicate the zany qualities of the first film more than trying to make a sequel that had a legitimate statement to be made (the condemning of womanizing in the first film was pitch perfect whereas the racism and the problems with journalistic integrity in this film are there more as a means to end), but in the end it all feels a little too bland and redundant.
If you were a fan of the first film then you should just wait for it to hit home video in a few months time. There is very little special about this film to warrant spending two hours of your time sitting in the theater while there are so many better options out there. Even a callback to the crazy showdown between news teams that happens near the end (along with a list of crazy cameos) isn't enough to save this sequel from the means-well-but-just-missed-the-mark club of the many other insignificant sequels that came before it.
Comedies are difficult to say one way or the other if they will work or not for other people with different tastes than your own. So if you are still unsure whether or not to take my word for it and wait, heed these words then. Take it from someone who really really likes the first Anchorman and a lot of Will Ferrell films, this isn't a very good comedy, nor is it a worthy follow up. If you, like me, liked the first film, then those words should ring truer than anything else in this entire review for you.