21 December 2013

Movie Review: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues


B+

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues 
2013, 119mins, 15
Director: Adam McKay 
Writer (S): Adam McKay, Will Ferrell 
Cast includes: Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Meagan Good, Dylan Baker, James Marsden, Christina Applegate, Kristen Wiig
UK Release Date: 19th December 2013

The legend commenced in 2004, and now nearly ten years later Adam McKay and Will Ferrell have seen fit to flesh out further chapters in the career of newscaster supreme Ron Burgundy. The vainglorious imbecile remains Ferrell’s most enduring cinematic creation -and for good reason- his original adventure representing the benchmark for recent absurdist jesting. Resuscitating the character for another spin on the feature length merry-go-round, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” transplants Burgundy and his news team into the 80s,  once again forgoing plot in favour of inspired ridiculousness. The novelty has long since worn off, and Ferrell’s shtick has become a Hollywood staple, but the imaginative laughs flow freely, with some journalistic awareness tossed in for deal sweetening purposes. “Anchorman 2” isn’t its forefather, but the film represents the best sequel anybody could’ve reasonably anticipated.

After being fired by his idol (Harrison Ford in just one of the movie’s assorted cameos), Ron Burgundy’s (Will Ferrell) life turns to mush; his marriage to Veronica (Christina Applegate) breaking down over professional jealously and his career dissipating over increasing lack of tact. With things trundling in a very dark direction, Ron’s salvation arrives in the form of a job offer from GNN, the first 24-hour news network. Recruiting his old Channel 4 buddies to face the NYC-set challenge, an invigorated Ron arrives to find himself shoved into a lacklustre 2am time-slot and with ambitious, assured, African-American Linda (Meagan Good) as his boss. The Dinosaur is initially disturbed by these developments, but as he and the news team get to work, they find themselves redefining broadcast journalism in very overt ways.



Director Adam McKay has pulled off some marvellous feats of mainstream comedy over the years (“Step Brothers” and “The Other Guys”) but 2004’s “Anchorman” remains the jewel in his film-making crown. For Ferrell the situation is much the same (although his reputation is a little more chequered), rendering the prospect of “Anchorman 2” either an act of brazen bravery or monetarily driven idiocy. Thankfully the follow-up is a scatter-shot delight, primed with palpable energy and creative dynamism; devoted to the intelligent arts of unpredictable irreverence and knowingly moronic showboating. The love that its’ creators harbour for these fictitious entities is evident in every raging moment of improvised lunacy. Craftsmanship and care has been applied to “Anchorman 2” from all angles, heartily preserving the tonality of part one without sacrificing its own identity as a continuation.

There’s not much point in dissecting the performances; they’re all stellar. Ferrell’s Burgundy remains a strangely lovable pig, and the actor’s knack for line delivery and disorganised genius hasn’t much muted over the years. Similarly it’s a hoot to have the old vanguard of Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner and Applegate back in the mix, each as sharp and exuberant as the next. It’s possible that “Anchorman 2” devotes a little too much time to Carell’s Brick (the runaway star of the initial foray) and his courting of an equally dim-witted GNN employee (a brilliantly blank Kristen Wiig), but that only affords Rudd and Koechner the chance to pilfer scenes this time around, working the outskirts of scenes frantically and with a clear ear for a particular strain of jocose interjection. The newcomers are solid, although maybe not as endearingly quotable as the original reprobates. The highlight is probably a game Meagan Good, fiery and essential to Burgundy’s increased befuddlement with the accelerating cultural developments of the 80s. She shares fun chemistry with Ferrell, together keeping their shared scenes buoyant and amusing. Less on form is the usually solid James Marsden as a handsome rival, failing to match the tempo of his co-stars or counterpoint from the last outing (Vince Vaughn’s Wes Mantooth). Marsden is a likable and hip performer, but he never feels totally at ease in McKay and Ferrell’s bizarre wheelhouse.


The evolution of contemporary media standards fuels the spoofing, Ron and his cohorts gleaning all kinds of success from junk reporting and sensationalist fluff, with nods to ethical corporate practise also underlined humorously. McKay and Ferrell aren't content to merely repeat previous beats (although this film’s celebrity laden street rumba blows the last incarnation’s equivalent out of the water), there’s a palpable attempt to try new things and imbue the product with a more concrete essence of satire. It’s much appreciated, as the narrative is no more focused, throwing characters and scenarios across the breadth of New York in pursuit of laughs; almost like some sort of overgrown SNL themed Frankenstein’s Monster. The third act gets especially messy, but despite the absence of storytelling precision it’s always riotously funny.  A 10 minute detour into Ron’s raising of a fragile shark is unnecessary, but when it comes complete with a musical number and some of the movie’s most berserk imagery, I imagine viewers with a funny-bone will let the editorial indulgence slide.

The additional polish that McKay exhibited with “The Other Guys” is handily retained, granting “Anchorman 2” a larger scope and nicer appearance than its modestly budgeted predecessor.  In the last few years McKay has expressed an interest in moving away from comedy and tackling something a little straighter, a notion I wouldn't be adverse to. This, his fifth film (and collaboration with Ferrell) continues a streak of goofy triumphs that will only last so long, the fact he’s carried off such an expectation heavy sequel with aplomb only heightening the chances of an emergent comedic turkey in the future. Ferrell on the other hand might be incapable of little else than different shades of Burgundy, but in the case of “Anchorman 2” he and McKay have honoured their legacies and fans with a witty, crazed and smart extension of the Channel 4 mythology. It might be time to try something else, but that doesn't mean “Anchorman 2” isn’t a joy from start to finish.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2013


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