Running Time: 119 mins
Starring: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate
Director: Adam McKay
Release Date: 18 December 2013
It is very rare for a sequel to outshine its predecessor. More often than not sequels to iconic films can be seen as nothing short of a mistake (I think of Mean Girls 2 as evidence of this), however Anchorman 2 manages to supersede its older brother. Nearly 10 years since the release of the original Will Ferrell and his writing team have had plenty of time to imagine a suitable sequel; what they’ve produced is really quite extraordinary.
The news team have disbanded: Ron and Veronica are married and have a son, Champ owns a fast-food restaurant serving “chicken of the cave” (that’s not real chicken), Brian is a kitten photographer (you can guess what joke they used there) and Brick…well he’s on top form as usual. What is remarkable is how, though almost a decade has passed, the characters remain unchanged; if anything the time has just intensified them.
However disaster soon strikes Ron’s idyllic domestic life when his hero Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford) fires him, branding him “the worst news anchor ever” and promotes Veronica instead as his replacement. After a brief period of depression, which he spends hurling insults at dolphins and a mock-suicide, it is not long before the opportunity presents itself for him to join the first 24-hour news station GNN (definitely not CNN, definitely) bringing with it the chance for our favourite news team to reunite.
When they are given the “graveyard shift” for the network’s launch Ron and the team must be original in order to gain popularity and also to win a bet made with Ron’s latest rival, Jack Lime (James Marsden), who is equally as arrogant as Ron. The film gives a satirical insight into the concept of what is ‘newsworthy’ and in so doing gives rise to the common stereotype concerning Americans and their (lack of) intelligence. From celebrating the essence of what it means to be ‘American’, spoon-feeding patriotism to the viewers, their content soon descends into farce as a car chase becomes the breakthrough moment of Ron’s career. This is just the start as the obsession with ratings intensifies and the team desperately “add more graphics”, for instance, in an attempt to make the programme more visually appealing, directly attacking modern news networks in the process.
At the crux of the film is the tension between the freedom Ron has to be his confident, arrogant self, discontent with living in the shadow of anyone, especially his wife, and yet at the same time the ever evident fact that he wishes to regain her affections even though she has moved on. Ron can see what is blindingly obvious: her new relationship is destined to be short-lived. What is mysterious is the fact that Veronica’s temporary replacement is Linda, a confident, strong, ‘masculine’ woman who bullies her way into Ron’s affections only to abandon him when he suffers an injury. The two are completely incompatible and their relationship is nonsensical. Did I mention she is black? If you weren’t aware from her appearance than the scene where she is introduced to the team, in which Ron repeatedly says “black”, would have made sure; a bewildering scene that failed to be funny, only awkward.
At times it feels as though the film is trying to do too much and maybe it is, but this does not stop it from being highly entertaining in spite of its plot ‘flaws’. The stand-out feature, if it is even possible to pick just one, is the introduction of Kristen Wiig as Chani Lastnamé. For want of a better phrase, she is a female Brick, and the interaction between the two generate some of the most comical moments ever seen. They bond over their mutual confusion of the telephone which “just won’t stop ringing”, from which their relationship blooms; Brick does not just “love Lamp” any more! The Brick of the 80s is without doubt the highlight of hilarity in this film with his one-liners even more random than before.
Viewers can expect numerous cameo appearances from comedy legends such as Jim Carrey and Will Smith, Liam Neeson and, in several places, the reworking of previously used material. Yet this is new and improved: Brian Fantana’s perfume cabinet now contains an array of condoms. Though there are some quizzical elements at times this comes from a conscious awareness of its high expectations and so the film can be forgiven. Forgetting the slightly extreme ‘race jokes’, especially when Ron meets Linda’s parents, this is a film whose comedy is sustained through the consistent performances of the main four, some delightfully obscure events and a combination of original and remastered joke material. It is an exceedingly enjoyable production that begs the question: will there be a third?