Great Odin’s raven! After almost a decade they’ve finally released a sequel to the brilliantly bonkers Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, picking up just after his 70s heyday.
His legend continues with a mischievous reimagining of how the TV news got dumbed down by rolling 24-hour coverage. But while the filmmakers aim high with the premise, Will Ferrell and co-writer and director Adam McKay don’t always hit the mark. In fact, sometimes, it looks like they’re not even trying; settling for a few wild non-sequiturs (like that thing about the raven) while Burgundy furrows his brow in that serious way that newsreaders do.
Okay, so it is quite funny, but it won’t have you rolling around like the original. As news satires go this is on a level with that time BBC News 24 interviewed a random Congolese bloke believing him to be a technology guru with an expert opinion on Apple’s domination of the market. Remember the way he blathered in desperation live-to-air for ten minutes?
Burgundy has comparable bouts of verbal diarrhoea that eventually get him fired from the evening news while his onetime rival, now-wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) is awarded a promotion. Naturally, his chauvinist tendencies bubble to the surface, seeming to spell the end for his marriage and his career. The best he can do is fronting the graveyard shift on fledgling network GNN, ridiculed for aiming to report the news around the clock.
Here comes the heist movie bit where Burgundy reassembles the old team. That’s ladies man Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd with a permanently cheeky glint) who has become one of the world’s leading “pussy photographers” (that’s cute little kittens playing with yarn), sports reporter Champ Kind (the very shouty David Koechner) and breezy-brained weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell).
Carrell has one of the best lines in the film, describing a stalker who follows him on sunny days (we won’t spoil it for you), but he’s also lumbered with a dud of a romantic subplot. Bridesmaids star Kristen Wiig is wasted as his equally air-headed love interest in scenes where they mostly just stare intently at each other and fidget. It’s awkward and when the tension gets too much, Carrel hollers like a madman and even growls like a bear. At this point, you may want to lie down and play dead.
Thankfully, there are inspired moments too. We always knew that Burgundy had a problem with women, but when his new boss turns out to be female and African-American (Meagan Good) it blows Burgundy’s mind, leaving him only able to utter the word “black” over and over again. It’s rib-ticklingly inappropriate, but his lowbrow instincts also boost the network ratings. Who’d have thought people would tune in to watch helicopter footage of a car chase? Actually, Ferrell could have done more here, because the enduring memory of the OJ Simpson chase isn’t the reckless driving but the inane rambling of newsreaders trying to pad out what seemed like hours of airtime.
OJ Simpson does get name-checked, only by Fantana who boasts about wild nights out on the town with OJ, Robert Blake and Phil Spector, calling themselves “The Ladykillers”. James Marsden is the real villain of the piece, though, as prime-time pretty boy Jack Lime. He gets to swap some amusingly tame trash-talk with Burgundy across the newsroom and Carrel gets a few extra chuckles in his attempt to engage in this war of words.
Ferrell is a generous comedian who doesn’t hog all the best lines for himself and instead creates a fun atmosphere where everyone is allowed to be as silly as each other. However, that also means they can get too carried away and drag a joke out too far. Carrel’s animal sounds are a case in point and later on, Ferrell takes a sharp left-turn and leads us into a comedy remake of Free Willy but with a man-eating shark – Burgundy trying to rebuild his confidence by nursing it back to health.
You can see where this is heading and it’s the same for other jokes that trade too much on familiarity (Burgundy gets his flute out again) and some star cameos to jazz up the grand finale. There are chuckles aplenty but it just doesn’t catch you off-guard in the same way as the original. Instead, Ferrell and McKay are pandering to what they think the audience wants.
A big splashy marketing campaign has ensured the sequel makes headlines even before its release (on 18th December), but that’ll be chip paper by the New Year. Enjoy it while it’s hot.