My mother has taught me a lot of things: how to read, how to drive a car (a terrifying experience to hear her tell it) and how to be a generally decent human being. She also taught me that when multiple cast members of a movie or TV show hit the same talk shows within close proximity of each other, whatever they are promoting is probably not very good. One person promoting the show is normal, but when they trot out the entire cast on the same media outlets that is usually an red flag that they are trying to sell you a bill of goods. Following her reasoning, if more than one cast member appears on LIVE with Kelly and Michael in a short amount of time, promoting the same project, that is definitely not a good sign. Multiple cast members on different talk shows is less telling, but the rule of thumb here is the harder that they are trying to promote something, the more likely it is going to be a turkey. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part this logic rings true. Too much publicity is usually a bad sign.
So I was naturally very concerned when the Anchorman 2 P.R. machine kicked into overdrive in the last few months. When Anchorman 2 was announced back in March of 2012, I was very excited that the Channel 4 news team was reuniting. It had been almost a decade since the original Anchorman was released, so I had assumed that we would never spend more time with these characters. When Ron Burgundy began popping up on ads for the Dodge Durango and on local news casts I was initially very pleased to have this character back in my life, but as the publicity train kept chugging along I began to worry. Will Ferrell was seemingly everywhere all of sudden; add in the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor and the Ron Burgundy autobiography and it seemed like they were really giving us the hard sell. This dog and pony show surely meant that they didn’t have a ton of confidence in Anchorman 2; I quickly calibrated my expectations and tried to dampen my enthusiasm to lessen the chance of disappointment. I went in to Anchorman 2 last night expecting it to be downright terrible.
The good news is that the new Anchorman sequel turned out to be much better than I anticipated, though given my expectations that isn’t really saying much. The new film doesn’t tarnish the legacy of Ron Burgundy and company and I giggled through a lot of the film. That being said, I can’t honestly say that I loved the movie or that it was great. The parts that worked the best for me were mainly rehashes of material that they had done in the first film. I walked out of the theater last night relieved that it was not quite the dreadfully unfunny sh*tshow that I had prepared myself for, but still slightly disappointed. Anchorman 2 was silly and generally amusing, but it didn’t have the same reaction as when I saw other comedies like This is The End.
Now my lackluster reaction to Anchorman 2 in and of itself may not be cause for concern, as I didn’t warm to the first Anchorman on my first viewing. In fact, the first time I met Ron Burgundy and the gang, I kind of hated them. I absolutely was not a fan and thought the film was completely stupid. It took multiple viewings – and hanging out with someone who LOVED the movie – for me to finally warm up to it. Somewhere around my third viewing, I began to enjoy the film and by my fifth viewing I was completely won over. Now I regularly quote the film and have real affection for these ridiculous characters. I may follow a similar trajectory with Anchorman 2; these may be films that have to wear me down before I completely love them. Not the most ringing endorsement, but the fact that I didn’t hate Anchorman 2 means that in the grand scheme of things it is already ahead of the game. For me, this films seem to be an acquired taste.
Anchorman 2 moves the action from San Diego to the Big Apple; after a career setback and relationship trouble with Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) is approached to appear on the first of its kind 24 hour news network, GNN. It’s a revolutionary idea for the industry, but first Burgundy must reassemble his news team: Investigative reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Sportcaster Champ Kind (David Koechner) and simple weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell). Once Burgundy arrives, he butts heads with the new anchorman wunderkind Jack Lime (James Marsden) and his African-American producer Linda Jackson (Meagan Good). Along the way there are a ton of celebrity cameos and critiques of the content and tenor of cable news programming.
The film employs something of a scattershot method for jokes; they throw a lot of them at you and just hope that the majority of them land. I’d say the majority of them do, though there are some definite thuds; thankfully if you don’t find a particular joke funny, you just have to wait a minute or two and there’ll be another joke that might be more to your liking. I personally didn’t find the race related material all that great, but it was a minor part of the story and wasn’t a major distraction. Anchorman 2 really is a lot of silliness and a lot of callbacks to things that they did in the first film. Brick’s screen time has been greatly increased, a nod to the success that Steve Carell has enjoyed since the first film. He even gets his own subplot involving a love interest (Kristen Wiig). Brian and Champ are left to be more supporting characters, which is fine because a little of them (especially Champ) goes a long way. Though I appreciated the references to Anchorman, there was the sense that I had seen a lot of this before. It felt like they were trying a bit too hard with the catchphrases and while I definitely appreciated the return of the news team rumble, I would have liked a bit more originality. What seemed novel in the first film feels too premeditated in the second.
Nevertheless, I did giggle throughout the film; Anchorman 2 is full of the same lunacy as the original film. If anything, they may have doubled down on the nuttiness. This is definitely the theater of the absurd; there’s an entire subplot involving a baby shark named Doby. I found the critiques of cable news to be the most amusing of jokes, not unsurprising given my background in political science and communications. It’s kind of an easy target, but they do a nice job with it. I am guessing that if you liked the first film you will generally like Anchorman 2, though probably not as much. The sequel isn’t the disaster that I predicted, but it does feel a little like reheated leftovers. I’m not sure this was completely worth the nearly 9 year wait for a sequel. However, if history is any guide, I’ll be more enthusiastic about Anchorman 2 after repeated viewings. Right now I found Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues fairly amusing, but not hilarious.