Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Nine years after it came out and forty-odd years after it was set, Anchorman has lost none of its genius. Far and away the finest film in the admittedly patchy Frat Pack canon, it immortalised Will Ferrell’s supercilious, scotch-loving and blisteringly funny Ron Burgundy and gold-plated the careers of not a few other actors. And now, just like we always knew there would be when the money got big enough, there’s a sequel. But can Ron Burgundy, a creature of his time and place if ever there was one, survive the transition to New York City and the nineteen-eighties? Short answer: no.

It’s ten years or so since the events of Anchorman, and newsreader Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) reigns as king of the airwaves alongside his wife and co-host Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). But when network legend Mack Harken (Harrison Ford, obviously) decides to promote Veronica and fire Ron, prompting their separation, things start to go wrong in a way that didn’t happen until at least halfway through the last film. Within months, Ron’s a washed-up loser in a cyan blazer, trying to hang himself at Sea World – which is when his very own plot-propelling angel appears.

The Global News Network is aiming to do the impossible and set up a 24-hour news channel, and they need Ron. But Ron needs his news team. And they need to stop (respectively) photographing kittens, selling fried bats to strangers and thinking they’re dead. It’s going to be a hell of a recruitment drive. After tracking down Bryan (Paul Rudd), Champ (Michael Koechner) and Brick (Steve Carell), Ron heads back to the Big Apple to remake his name. But how is his graveyard shift supposed to compete with young buck Jack Lime (James Marsden) and his preternaturally sharp suits? Against all the odds, the trick seems to be ‘behave exactly like you did ten years ago, and then invent Police, Camera, Action!’.

I have nothing but the happiest memories of Anchorman. I last watched it perhaps nine months ago, and laughed as heartily as I did when I first saw it on VHS or whatever. But I loved my cat Millicent too, and just because it would be theoretically possible to put little remote controlled wheels in her paws and a voice recorder in her mouth and steer her across the floor to me, miaowing exactly like she used to before the vet gassed her, doesn’t mean I ever, ever want that to happen. And so it is with Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. For every original joke there are four or five that have no merit, no originality, nothing but a desperate attempt to remind you of how much you loved Anchorman. I stopped counting how many times the news team roared with laughter at something inane, because I was enjoying the counting more than the film and it felt like I was cheating.

The performances are fine, obviously. Will Ferrell slips back into Ron like he was never away, and Rudd, Koechner and Carell continue to be good at playing one-note characters (hurrah for THEM). If I were Christina Applegate, I’d have sued someone for being ignored; she gets perhaps 20min of screentime in total. But the greatest pleasure of the entire film is the spectacular line-up of cameos, most of which appear in the last fifteen minutes during the inevitable news team cockfight. I shan’t name names, but I will tell you that I laughed out loud just once, and it was when Cher appeared. (Oops.)

If Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues had come out in 2005, or been released as a double feature with Anchorman, I doubt I’d have objected to its shameless, cheap strip-mining of everything that was good about the original (not least I was a damn sight less choosy at 16; you should have seen my girlfriend). But after such a long wait and such an absurdly intense marketing campaign, I can’t help but feel that we deserved something more than a two-hour reminder of how much better Anchorman was than almost anything else any of its cast have done since. San Diego may be staying classy, but as far as I can tell, New York City is a tawdry, ageing, unrepentant whore.

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