For the past nine years, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy has enjoyed lasting celebration for its collection of all-purpose one liners. You’d be amazed at how frequently people manage to shout “Milk was a bad choice!” in regular conversation. But they do. Because they love it. And for my money, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues has its own plump share of moments just as funny.
Admittedly, I’ve never found the original Anchorman to be all that uproarious. Some were hooked straight away, others grew fond of the wacky comedy over the years. But it never rang more than occasionally amusing for me. In Anchorman 2, the laughter is even more occasional. But when it hits, it’s arguably more amusing. I’m thinking, foremost, of throwaway gags like the news team cackling over their mutual distaste for workdays, or plunging headfirst into an copy of Garfield at Large. Bits and pieces like these throughout the movie showcase some terrific humor, with a few of the larger conceits — like Ron Burgundy’s mid-movie relationship with a beached baby shark — also landing, and hard. Unfortunately, they are separated by long, slow, dry spells. But to be honest, even this movie’s dry spells rarely lose watchability.
The biggest shortcoming of Anchorman 2 can be pegged to the transformation of Steve Carell’s weatherman character Brick Tamland. When we first meet Brick in the original film, he’s no more than a dimwitted weirdo, exhibiting anxiety and obliviousness in his few choice moments center stage. But such is not the case when we reunite with Brick in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. He’s shouting hysterically, can’t put a sentence together, and has no understanding of what is going on around him at any given time. And this doesn’t work. It’s not funny when Brick parades around the office like Godzilla, or takes full multi-minute scenes to wrap his mind around the simplest of concepts. Instead, it’s grating. So it’s quite the problem that this new Brick gets double the screentime and material of his old counterpart. Paired with an equally empty-headed Kristen Wiig, Brick enjoys his own romantic journey. There is no conflict keeping the two apart; their story just functions as a collection of interwoven scenes of two adults acting like moronic aliens — so it is played entirely for laughs. And, unfortunately, it deserves not a one.
The outstanding negatives end there. It’s not always hilarious when Ron Burgundy struggles with the racial divide between himself and his new boss/ladyfriend Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), but it’s consistently affable. The rivalry between Ron and ex-wife Veronica’s new beau Gary (Greg Kinnear, playing a psychologist with a ponytail — and how) churns out some hearty chuckles. And kudos to the script for handing more material to David Koechner’s lovably rancid Champ Kind, although I wouldn’t turn my nose up at an Anchorman 2 that had more for Paul Rudd to do.
But the biggest victory of Anchorman 2 is that it actually has something to say about the news. Anchorman (likewise Will Ferrell’s follow-up features Talladega Nights and the non-Adam McKay venture Blades of Glory) was primarily about gender roles and America’s obsessive definition of masculinity. But Anchorman 2 looks specifically at the media, castigating the news industry for what it has devolved into. The film’s message is broad, not especially constructive of a moral or solution, and not at all something we haven’t seen before. But hey, it’s been a while since Network, so this’ll do just fine for the time being.
The cultural phenomenon that was born from Anchorman is a rarity, reserved for special kinds of comedies that are just weird enough at just the right time. Anchorman 2 has all that weirdness in stock — hell, its climactic scene (the very best part of the movie, hands down) has more insanity in a three-minute span than the first movie does entirely. And in truth, it’s worth seeing just for that. But leading up to it, you’ll get big laughs, some duller (but not quite dull!) stretches, and some unexpected commentary on how America takes its news. All in all, a good time. Just ignore the Brick parts.