I’m “biast” (con): hated the first film
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
By Odin’s beard! The spirit of Movies 2013 is all over Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. I’m not even kidding. It’s got a “working at SeaWorld will kill your soul” vibe, just like Blackfish. It’s all superfly 70s New York bullshit and self-delusion like American Hustle. It’s got a shark fight right outta The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (and poor Kristen Wiig playing the exact same part she plays in Mitty, the gal a guy falls in love with from afar at the office, even if it’s all way goofier here). It’s got a man lamenting getting left behind in a creative realm that is moving on without him, like Inside Llewyn Davis. It’s got a strong black woman fighting for her place in the world just like 12 Years a Slave and The Butler (I might be starting to stretch things here). It has a fight for human survival against impossible odds, just like in Gravity and All Is Lost (no, actually, it doesn’t have those at all, unless going up against corporate power and money is an impossible odd… which it kinda is).
If Anchorman 2 had come along even six months later, we could suspect intentional parody. But for this film to hit simultaneously with most of those others… gosh, the cultural zeitgeist must be even more dire than I was sensing when even the dumb comedies are picking up on it.
Except… this ain’t dumb. Not like the first Anchorman was. I wondered if maybe it was me, if I’d changed in some deep-down fundamental way in the almost ten years between that first flick and this one. As I was laughing my butt off at this new movie, I thought: Did I miss something the first time around? So I rewatched Anchorman, which I hadn’t seen since it was new in 2004. But no, it’s not me: Anchorman had nothing to say beyond “Aren’t 70s fashions in clothes and misogyny hilarious?” (They’re not, not particularly.)
The Legend Continues, on the other hand, does have some meat to it. Not a lot, and nothing terribly surprising, but it’s possible that it might open a few eyes to a depressing reality. We’re meant to “enjoy” the “hilarity” of how clueless Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell: The Internship, The Campaign) and his team of local-news idiots — ladies’-man reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd: This Is the End, Admission), creepy sports guy Champ Kind (David Koechner: Piranha 3DD, Paul), and slow-and-weird weather man Brick Tamland (Steve Carell: Despicable Me 2, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone) — invent the nonstop parade of gossip, sensationalism, disaster, and shouting matches that passes for modern journalism. And they do this because they need to win a bet against the handsome, suave lead anchor, Jack Lime (James Marsden: 2 Guns, Death at a Funeral), at the brand-new 24-hour all-news channel they’ve all been hired to help launch in some vague late-70s/early-80s era.
It’s funny, sure, but in a way that makes you want to take hostages and yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” And then you remember that Network predates even the time this is set in and things have only gotten much much worse since, and then you get even more depressed.
Ferrell and director Adam McKay (The Other Guys, Step Brothers) also cowrote the script (and produced the film), and they’re not concerned only with satire. They’ve also brought a level of insane nonsense to Burgundy & Co. that was not present last time. It’s almost Monty Python-esque in places, and it’s clearly a conscious effort to amp up the ridiculousness, because they repeat one joke here from the first film — a rumble among rival news teams — that works, as both sheer absurdity and satire, in a way that it did not before. Carell’s character is far more enjoyably off-skew than he was before (and Kristen Wiig [Girl Most Likely, Friends with Kids] is hilarious, too, as the strange secretary he is smitten with), and he has a scene with a green screen that had me screaming with laughter.
This is far from a perfect film. It takes too long to get going. It’s oddly, crudely edited in places. It’s wildly uneven, with its big laughs interrupted by long, unfunny, dragged-out bits. But when it works, it’s so deliciously bizarre that it almost makes you not hate Ron Burgundy for ruining the news forever.