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“Who the hell is Julius Caesar? You know I don’t follow the NBA!” Josh Reviews Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Comedy sequels are incredibly hard.  Don’t believe me?  Name your top five favorite comedy sequels.  Go.  Having trouble coming up with five?  Having trouble coming up with ONE great comedy sequel?  I rest my case.  (For the record, I have some love for Ghostbusters 2, The Naked Gun 2 1/2, and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, though all three of those films are, in my opinion, markedly inferior to their predecessors.)  Adding to the challenge of a successful Anchorman 2 is the long decade that has passed since the first film’s release.  In that ten years, the modestly successful Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy has grown ino a huge cult hit, beloved by many and joyfully quoted ad nauseam. Now that the longed-for-by-fans sequel has finally arived, it is hard to imagine any actual filming living up to all those expectations built up over the last decade.

I didn’t enter into Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues with too much of an attachment to the first film, which might make me something of a rarity.  Truth be told, I didn’t much care for Anchorman the first time I saw it.  While its pleasures and sublime silliness have grow on me over the years (I laughed quite a lot when I re-watched the film last week, in preparation for seeing the sequel), and I certainly think it’s a very funny film, I wouldn’t rank it amongst my favorite comedies.  My tastes tend to range towards the goofy comedies of my youth (films like Airplane!, Fletch, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, National Lampoon’s Vacation, The Naked Gun, LA Story, etc).  I also unabashedly love the work of Mel Brooks (particularly Young Frankenstein, The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Spaceballs), Albert Brooks (particularly Modern Romance), Christopher Guest (particularly A Mighty Wind), Kevin Smith (Clerks through Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) and Judd Apatow and Mr. Apatow’s circle of collaborators (including films like Superbad, I Love You, Man, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Tropic Thunder).   I love Monty Python (particularly The Holy Grail) and Woody Allen (particularly Annie Hall, Bananas, Zelig, and Crimes and Misdemeanors, though I could go on).  I love Waking Ned Devine and My Blue Heaven and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Aristocrats (the most profane film ever made) and Bull Durham and The Frisco Kid and Shaun of the Dead and High Fidelity.  Have I established my comedy leanings sufficiently?  Even among the sillier films headlined by Will Ferrell (which I tend to enjoy, though not as much as any of the other films I have just listed), I have always found Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby to be a far funnier film than the original Anchorman.  I know I am in the minority on that, but I stand by my opinion.

All of which is an extremely long-winded lead-up to saying that I had a great time watching Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, though I certainly wouldn’t rank it amongst my favorite comedies.  The first Anchorman is surely superior, because of the originality of the world and characters that were created, but Anchorman 2 is a strong comedy sequel and certainly a great time for anyone who enjoyed the first film.

Anchorman 2 picks off where the first film left off, with Ron Burgundy happily married to former rival Veronica Corningstone.  Together, the two are co-anchoring the news.  But when Veronica is chosen over Ron to take a prestigious network anchor opening, their partnership and Ron’s life quickly hits the skids.  Will Ferrell has always been hilarious playing depressed, angry characters, and Anchorman 2 gives him plenty of time to have fun with a drunken, down-on-his luck Ron.  (There are several points in the film in which Ron stumbles and falls into the deep doldrums.  Ron sort of goes through the same mini character-arc three times in the film, which is essentially the same character arc he went through in the first film.  But I digress.)  Eventually Ron gets offered a position as part of a crazy new experiment: a 24-hour news station.  Ron has to then get the band back together, re-assembling his beloved News Team (Paul Rudd, David Koechner, and Steve Carell).

Anchorman 2, like the first film, is a very silly movie.  The plot is all over the place, and not every narrative digression is equally comedically strong.  But it’s hard to complain about such a gleefully joyful attitude of “let’s go in whatever crazy direction seems funny to us.”  There are some moments that didn’t work for me (the whole business towards the end of Ron being temporarily blinded — you read that right — was a bridge too far for me), but there is a lot of very, very, very funny material in the film.  This is definitely as quotable a film as the first one.  And there are several moments of inspired brilliance — the interracial sex montage when Ron hooks up with his new African American (or, as he refers to her, “African and American”) boss (played by Meagan Good) is genius, absolute genius.

There are a LOT of callbacks to moments from the first film.  Possibly too many, as one could argue this film should stand more on its own.  But here again, it’s hard to complain when there’s so much joy in these new spins on now-classic bits.  Ron gets some great new exclamations (“By Olivia Newton John’s hymen!”); Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) opens up his secret display case of, not cologne this time, but condoms; Baxter saves the day by communicating with animals; and while the film makes us wait a long, long time for another rumble, when it finally arrives it is well-worth the wait.

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of satire included in this nutty film.  Will Ferrell and Adam McCay have a lot to say about the sad state of today’s 24-hour news cycle, and there are several points in the film where they get in some good jabs.  I really liked that aspect of the film, and I sort of wish there had been a little more of that.  The satire is undercut by all of the Ron Burgundy playing the flute while ice-skating craziness (another callback to the first film), as clearly the filmmaker’s primary goal was to make as silly a film possible, rather than a movie that makes a statement.  Along these lines, it’s unintentionally funny when they have to add a narrator voice-over to explain that there was a time when the news reporting on a car chase would have been seen as outlandish.  (I guess they didn’t trust today’s young audience to understand that!)

There are a lot of great cameos in the film that I won’t spoil (OK, I’ll spoil one — Harrison Ford is phenomenal in a scene very early in the film), and pretty much everyone you’d want to see from the first film pops up at one time or another.  Kristen Wiig is hilarious as a love-interest for Steve Carell’s Brick (a terrific story-line), as James Marsden is also amazing as Ron’s handsome, arrogant new rival.  The soundtrack is terrific, with some phenomenal music cues (particularly Simon & Garfunkel’s “Old Friends” for Ron’s reunion, late in the film, with… well, I won’t spoil it!).

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues might not be what I’d consider a great comedy, but it’s certainly a heck of a lot of fun.

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