Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

By on December 26, 2013

Going in, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the much-belated follow-up to the cult classic “Anchorman”- or all too sure that I knew exactly what to expect, if you know what I mean and I think that you do. Would it be a total retread, a la “The Hangover 2,” where they basically just changed a few minor elements (i.e. location, animal of choice, etc.) and made the exact same film as the first one, with the same old jokes, assuming the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach? Or would it be an extension and expansion of the first one, with certain similar elements, but an overall new storyline, more like “The Hangover 3,” which was at least an improvement on its predecessor?

The answer is: a little of both. On the one hand, certain types of jokes are indeed reprised here, and the big set-piece at the end is nothing if not an expansion on arguably the most memorable scene in the original, the big battle between our gang and the other newscast teams, including a host of cameos from well-known comedic faces. Also, as is the case with many a comedy before it, a lot of the best jokes are in or at least telegraphed in the movie’s trailer. The latter is unfortunate, as it ruins what might have otherwise been welcome jokes, but the former all but makes the film, so there’s that.

Of course, that’s not going to stop a lot of people from seeing the film, be that it as it may that may. On the plus side, a lot of people seem to have liked it, and felt that the gratuitous cameos were actually unnecessary for the most part, as the film didn’t really need it. I can see where that might be the case,  save a few key expanded roles such as Kristen Wiig’s bit as Steve Carell’s character’s love interest, or Harrison Ford as a retiring newscaster looking to replace his seat with a qualified person, both of which are a lot of fun.

But come on, the film wouldn’t be the same without that big battle, and you know it. If it wasn’t there, people would complain, so better that it is, even if it is a retread with bigger names. Besides (mild spoilers), who doesn’t enjoy seeing, say, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler together? Or John C. Reilly? (Wait until you see who he plays!) And rest assured, plenty more where that came from. It’s certainly gratuitous as all get out, but it’s still a lot of fun, IMHO.

On the plus side, regardless, are some pricelessly quotable bits of dialogue, as most no doubt hoped for. Here are some of the printable ones: “If you’ve got an ass like the North Star, wise men are going to want to follow it” (Ron, on Veronica Cornerstone’s derriere) and “By the hymen of Olivia Newton-John” made me laugh, of what I can remember. There are plenty more where that came from, thankfully.

On the negative side, the film suffers from Judd Apatow disease, in which comedies are two hours (or more), where they should be a relatively stealth ninety minutes or so- as was the case with the first film. This would have been tighter, funnier, if it were just a hair shorter. Some scenes reward the extra time- it’s nice to see Meagan Good in a film this big, for instance. I’ve always liked her, and it’s a hoot seeing her paired off with Ron, with the expected un-politically correct antics that ensue, as in their “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” bit with her parents. That stuff was fine, as was the meeting of the lack-of-minds that was Carell and Wiig, and the film at its most original.

But there’s a lot of trying to recreate the magic of the first film here, and that stuff is actually the least of the film, which is funnier the more it ventures into more uncharted territory not featured in the original. I always get a kick out of Paul Rudd, and his bits with the cat photography (!) and doing faux-commercials are a real hoot, but the bit with the condoms is an obvious repeat of the “Sex Panther” bit in the first, with half the payoff. Though the panther part gets a nice call-back later on that’s way funnier, albeit in the big battle, which is itself a repeat. Oh, the irony.

So, yeah, it’s mostly more of the same, but there’s definitely enough for fans of the original to recommend, and the plus side is, if someone hasn’t seen the original, this one is just as good as seeing it, and you don’t need to have seen it to enjoy this one, which is nice for newbies. That said, don’t expect it to live up to the original, either, and just accept it for what it is: a cash-in that happens to deliver the best one could hope for.

I’ll give it a solid C+ for fans of the original and a slightly higher B- to those who haven’t seen the original, as it would have been the superior version if the first didn’t exist. All things considered, you could do worse for a fun night at the movies, if you’re looking for a few laughs, and with this more or less the only such offering around at this time, it is what it is, I suppose. And that will have to do for the time being.

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
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