Sequels. Comedy sequels no less. The hardest of all in the sequel kingdom. Do they ever work? Hmm… more often than not they don’t; at least not to the extent of the original. Casting your mind back for a second: it’s been almost ten years since the original Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy came out; a film which took many by surprise.
At the time Will Ferrell was on the rise. Most notably he’d done Old School and Elf, so you could argue that Anchorman – and character of Ron Burgundy – cemented his place in the modern-day comedy hall of legends. Also, now he’s a big star, it’s hard to imagine Steve Carell who, at the time, was even less well known. He had a part as, believe it or not, a co-anchor in Bruce Almighty, a year before Anchorman. Paul Rudd had been hard at work as a jobbing actor until his most notable role, a two-year stint in Friends. Similar to Carell, Rudd has gone from strength to strength in the years since becoming part of the San Diego news team.
So, in that respect, most of the cast were relative unknowns on the rise which lent to the comedy, in much the way The Hangover did a few years later. There was no pressure on the cast. We didn’t really know who these guys were as actors, or the characters they’d created.
Uneasy lies the crown
Perhaps that’s why it’s taken almost a decade for the legend of Ron Burgundy to continue – once you’ve captured lightning in a bottle, how do you manage it a second time? This is especially hard with comedy. Audiences want more of the same, yet something new too. And critics are sitting, poised to pounce on the slightest whiff of a stale rehashed joke.
With that in mind I’m pleased to say, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is… not bad at all. They’ve tried to take the characters to places new. Indeed, the news team have all left the game when we pick the story up, with Ron living the good life with loving wife and co-anchor Veronica Corningstone. As you’d expect, things go quickly awry – largely Ron’s own doing of course.
So he looks to reform the old team as part of a groundbreaking new 24-hour news channel. This takes the characters into new territory and, compared to the original, it has something to say in terms of social commentary; how those in power should not be allowed to control the media and the nature of what constitutes well-researched news versus mere speculation.
Brick finds love
Before you panic, there’s still laughs aplenty. Ferrell, along with writer/director Adam McKay, tread a precarious but largely successful line in terms of running jokes from the first film and new material. In particular, Brick gets a bit of a love story with a female counterpart (brilliantly played by Kristen Wiig) that works well. On the flipside, some of the jokes – and scenes – feel forced, like Ferrell and McKay are trying too hard.
There’s also one or two moments where jokes grate, more in poor taste than anything else – high on the cringe scale. Happily, the zingers carry you through. Once you’ve seen this film, chances are the first thing you’ll be asked is, ‘Is it better than the original?’… well, no. But then, often, originals are favoured by most. Simply the fact they were original wins them points. But people do look back with a certain rose-tinted nostalgia; so judging a comedy sequel can be skewed in that sense.
So… in a roundabout way I’d say, whilst this isn’t as good as the original, it’s darn close. And that’s as much as any of us could hope for – which should mean, in Ron Burgundy’s world, his legend is still intact.