How do you even consider the sequel to one of the most loved and highly quoted comedies of the last decade? I suppose you look to the film to see if anyone appear to be phoning it in (they are not); you wonder if the sequel is merely a rehash of the jokes that worked best in the first film (nope, although this film hasn't exactly forgotten the first one exists); and then you look to see if the writers of ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (director Adam McKay and star Will Ferrell) have built upon Anchorman, grown the characters and expanded the story. I'm happy to report that if you selected the third option, you'd be right.
ANCHORMAN 2 picks up in the early 1980s; the end of the '70s appear to have been good for our heroes, but as the '80s kick in, not all is well in the world of Ron Burgundy (Ferrell), as he loses a shot at a network anchor job to his now-wife Veronica (Chirstina Applegate). Ron's fall from news grace is long and painful, and he ends up emceeing the dolphin show at SeaWorld (sadly a tie in the the film BLACKFISH never comes), when a mysterious man (Dylan Baker) representing an even more mysterious thing called 24-hour news shows up and offers Burgundy a shot at redemption. Naturally, Ron wants to pull the old team back together after having been scattered to the wind after Ron's fall.
The jobs that the three fellow members of the team are too ridiculous to recount here, but rest assured it doesn't take much convincing to get Champ Kind (David Koechner), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), and Brick Tamaland (Steve Carrell) back on board. There is something comforting about seeing the boys back together and to see how quickly they slip back into old habits. But when the reach their new New York digs, the aren't the top dogs like they were in San Diego. They are given the overnight shift, while classically handsome/pretty boy Jack Lime (James Marsden) gets the primetime slot.
Ron is forced to not only get ratings to keep his job, but beat Lime's ratings thanks to a dumb bet he makes in the heat of the moment. To get the overnight viewers, Ron essentially invents all of the horrible tropes that have become commonplace on news networks desperate to fill time. He calls it giving the people what they want rather than what they need. And suddenly, full credit/blame for live car chase video, stories about animals and old people, and overtly pro-American pieces is given to Ron Burgundy. And his desperate act for ratings pays off.
And love is in the air in ANCHORMAN 2, which I guess shows growth. Ron gets into a sexy relationship with his African-American female boss, Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), which leads to all sort of race and gender humor (actually the dinner table scene you may have seen in the trailers is one of the film's funniest and goes on to seriously uncomfortable lengths). But perhaps the strangest things in a world of strange is the practically short film build around Brick's flirtation with newsroom employee Chani (Kristen Wiig), who might have just slightly less brain function than Brick. The scenes between them seem so far removed from the rest of the film that they probably could have easily been taken out, but that would have been a terrible idea, since they are among the film's strangest and most heartfelt.
Adam McKay is such a smart and strange creative force that the tangents and extended runs of joke after joke are so odd that you almost can't believe the folks that made this film got away with it. I'm not sure which had me in stitches more, the sequence in which Ron nurses a baby shark back to health or the perhaps too long chunk of the film where Ron goes blind, moves to a lighthouse, and seems to have lost all of his other senses in the process. Where the fuck did any of that come from?
While the first ANCHORMAN poked a bit of fun at how local news stations might turn a small event into a headline news story (Panda birth anyone?), ANCHORMAN 2 dares to dig at the banality of what the news has become with a few sharper tools. By now, you may have already heard about the film's climactic mega-rumble sequence, but what that moment is actually about is how niche and divided reporting the news has become. Plus, you're guaranteed to groan when you see how Ron and the team come up with some of their big ratings-grabbing ideas. It's funny, but it's also a little too on the mark, and it's this element that separates the new film from the original.
As with any Judd Apatow-produced film, ANCHORMAN 2 feels a little long (running at two hours precisely), especially in its second half, but for the most part, it's a tightly edited, twisted bit of fun that should make the fans giddy that their wishes have been answered--not for a new Anchorman movie, but for one that doesn't suck. In fact, some might say this 10-years-in-the-making sequel is pretty damn great.