In Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, beloved broadcaster Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his now-wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are at the top of their game – covering nationwide weekend news as co-anchors at the NYC-based headquarters for WBC. However, when the pair is invited to meet with the network’s retiring primetime anchor, Corningstone is promoted (becoming the first female lead anchor in nationwide news reporting) and Burgundy is fired. Dejected and bitter at WBC’s decision, Burgundy forces Corningstone to choose between her promotion and their marriage.
With no job prospects (and a now estranged wife) in New York City, Burgundy moves back to San Diego (leaving his seven-year-old son behind) where he, depressed and drunk, hosts the live dolphin show at Sea World. That is until Burgundy is contacted by a TV producer about to change the anchorman business forever by creating the 24-hour news cycle. Armed with renewed purpose, Burgundy sets out to reunite with his former broadcast team - Champ Kind (David Koechner), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) – so that they can make history (and seek revenge on WBC) as part of the newly-founded Global News Network (GNN).
The original Anchorman, released in 2004, was a critical and commercial success, offering a likable mix of quotable one-liners embedded in a tongue-in-cheek story about 1970s broadcast journalism misogyny – a story that also happened to feature a bear-whispering border terrier. Yet, while the entire writing/directing/producing team is back for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, very few of the laughs are bigger or smarter this round. In general, McKay’s sequel is an adequate followup, but overall it is a disjointed mix of set piece gags, strung together by a convoluted storyline, with jokes that fall somewhere in between laugh-out-loud entertainment (another cameo-heavy news team brawl) and uninspired riffs on setups that moviegoers will have seen done better many times before (Burgundy at an African-American family dinner).
Where the original film delivered with fresh improvisation, resulting in sharp (albeit random) jokes, the sequel often takes a more obvious and less inspired path – assuming that bigger comedy setups will make up for any lack of invention. Fans of the original will likely enjoy seeing the news team back on screen for more hijinks, and find plenty of funny moments worth a viewing, but that doesn’t absolve Anchorman 2 of being a pretty routine followup – one that could be disappointing to viewers that were expecting Ferrell and McKay to deliver a superior (or at least equivalent) quality sequel.
Understandably, the core story takes a backseat to outrageous comedy beats in The Legend Continues, but unlike its predecessor, the sequel indulges in so many ridiculous (and sometimes eye-rolling) detours that very few of the film’s larger satirical elements or character arcs build to anything particularly captivating. Instead, McKay and Ferrell mostly copy and paste iconic gags from the original and update them from San Diego in the mid-1970s to Manhattan in the early 1980s – meaning that certain characters are actually going through the same motions (and relearning the same lessons) as the last film. For example, after alienating his friends and love interest in The Legend of Ron Burgundy, only to reconcile in the final act, the titular character follows nearly the exact same self-destructive journey in the sequel – once again pushing Veronica away when she threatens his success and taking his frustrations out (once again) on his news team friends.
Instead of evolving the main characters and placing them in a fresh situation, McKay actually causes beloved favorites, especially Burgundy, to become less interesting – and worst of all less likable – in the sequel. In fact, despite a solid cast of beloved side characters, Anchorman 2 makes the curious choice to rely almost entirely on Ferrell and much less on the franchise ensemble – meaning that audiences rarely get a break from Burgundy this round. The anchorman is a funny character, no doubt, but given the movie’s lengthy (for a comedy) two-hour runtime (the original was 95 minutes), and reliance on redundant story material, certain viewers may find that even if they like Burgundy’s schtick, the character will wear-out his welcome by the end – especially given that his consistent presence comes at the expense of screen time for other fan-favorite players that helped offset the anchorman last time.
The news team, in particular, falls victim to the film’s overstuffed list of tangents – with McKay mainly cutting to the supporting roster for reaction shots in Burgundy-fueled situations. Once the film reincorporates Champ and Brian, actors Koechner and Paul Rudd are given very little to do – with few standout scenes of their own. Brick is provided with a slightly expanded role, as he pursues Chani (Kristen Wiig), an equally childlike WBC telephone worker. Nevertheless, Brick’s romance story amounts to only three brief scenes outside of the main Burgundy plot – which is a shame, considering the interplay between Wiig and Carell is one of the more endearing aspects of the sequel.
In place of “good old boy” 1970s misogyny, Anchorman 2 attempts to spearhead 1980s workplace racism with the introduction of Linda Jackson, GNN’s African American TV producer (played by Meagan Good), but without the same biting satire that made watching the Corningstone/Burgundy rivalry so enjoyable. Where Corningstone still serves as a smart foil for Burgundy, and a play on traditional anchor-”man” tropes, Jackson is little more than an excuse for the main character to point out racial stereotypes for the sake of cheap laughs. Good does her best in the role, but like many of the characters in Anchorman 2, McKay never takes the time to explore Jackson or her thematic potential beyond moment-to-moment jokes. James Marsden’s Jack Lime, GNN’s primetime anchor, is equally underserved as Burgundy’s rival (and eventual punching bag) with only one or two key plot points to even make his inclusion necessary.
Ultimately, McKay and Ferrell built a strong franchise foundation in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy with likable characters and quotable dialogue that has made the film a modern comedy classic. The project set a very high bar and, as a result, even when the sequel succeeds, it is inferior in nearly every way imaginable: less intelligent, less funny, and less memorable. As a result, while Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues will likely fall short of certain viewer expectations, the followup is still slightly better than a lot of its contemporaries, and thanks to fun performances from the cast, offers enough laughs to make it worthy of tempered recommendation.
If you’re still on the fence about Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, check out the trailer below:
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues runs 119 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, drug use, language and comic violence. Now playing in theaters.
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For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check back soon for our Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues episode of the SR Underground podcast.
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