I didn’t want to write this review, because I feel like the asshole messenger who has to deliver bad news: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is not a great comedy. As an immense fan of the absurdly delightful original, it gives me no pleasure to reveal this. I had hoped that Adam McKay and Will Ferrell could somehow avoid the problem that plagues most comedy sequels, the “bigger, bigger, more more” issue, but sadly, it falls into the same trap. The comedy isn’t as funny as in the original, but it is voiced with more volume, and like most comedy sequels, it takes a hilarious scene-stealing character that’s great in small doses (in this case, Brick) and quickly wears out his novelty by elevating him into a co-lead.
Anchorman 2 is not a terrible comedy, however. It’s light years ahead of The Hangover sequels, and there are intermittent bursts of creativity that make the endeavor worthwhile, but there is nothing lasting in this film. It will not inspire a collection of Internet memes, it will not be quoted extensively in the years to come, and it probably won’t bring in a new generation of fans. That’s a shame, too, because Anchorman 2 didn’t feel like a sell-out project. The studio had initially rejected the sequel, the cast took pay cuts to be in it, and it was only the fanbase’s desire for a new installment, and McKay and Ferrell’s passion for the characters that finally got it off the ground.
Unfortunately, what was once fresh and original now feels stale, as the brand of comedy popularized by Anchorman has been appropriated in dozens of other comedies, not to mention Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s other collaborations, Step Brothers and The Other Guys, both of which are much better than Anchorman 2, and both of which at least attempt to graft a story onto the nonsensical punchlines.
Anchorman 2, however, doesn’t really bother with trivialities like plot, tension, or an arc. It’s mostly a series of interconnected sketches built around Ron Burgundy and Brick Tamland that occasionally work to brilliant affect, but more often than not collapse under a desperation to be outdo its own silliness. The clever inanity of the first movie, the non-sequiturs, and the foul-mouthed tangents felt surprising in the original, even a little confusing. Here, it almost feels like they’re answering a spontaneous call from fans. “Hey! Can you do that Ron Burgundy impression?” It feels forced, lacking in wit, and at times, downright Sandlerian. The satire, too, is way too on-the-nose, although at this point, making fun of cable news is almost like trying to parody The Onion. There’s nowhere left to go.
There are blissful moments, however, such as the awkward dinner scene in which Ron Burgundy painfully attempts to assimilate with a black family, and there are a few great gags, most of which you’ve already seen in the trailer. That’s part of the problem with Anchorman 2: It’s a few great sequences seemingly designed to market the movie built around an immense amount of filler. It could’ve used twenty or thirty minutes of trimming, and it wouldn’t’ have felt any more rushed than it already does in the film’s climactic scene, which was clearly written to accommodate a shitload of cameos instead of being designed to in any way service the plot (it’s completely nonsensical, and despite some very fun cameos, it’s painful to see the entire film go completely off the rails. With as many great comedians stuffed into the finale, it shouldn’t have been so completely boring).
Still, I will give credit to Anchorman 2 for being better than most studio comedies we are subjected to. The problem is, it’s not being compared to the output of Vince Vaughn or Adam Sandler or even Judd Apatow’s younger generation of man-children (Rogen, Franco, Hill, etc.). It’s being compared against the original Anchorman, and by that measure, it falls woefully short.