Last night, I was lucky enough to see a premiere of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., which opened with a live interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper and David Koechner, otherwise known as Champ Kind. Koechner, in the middle of the interview, pointed out that when the sequel was announced, people were… well, really concerned. Luckily, there was no reason for concern. Anchorman 2 is exactly what you would expect from an Anchorman sequel, and for me, that wasn’t a problem at all.
The film opens on Veronica Corningstone and Ron Burgundy, married with a child and living in New York, seemingly at the top of their game as a co-anchor team, until legend Mack Tanner (Harrison Ford), in his Emmy-filled office, promotes Veronica to lead anchor in the primetime slot… and fires Ron, for being, well, completely incompetent (apparently, when you say “shit” five times in a row on air, scream your TelePrompter lines because they’re all in caps lock, and sneeze directly on the camera lens, it doesn’t go over well). We know that when Burgundy falls, he falls hard, so he ends up drunk-announcing at SeaWorld, arriving early every morning to sexually violate starfish. Luckily, a cable news producer for a 24-hour news network, GNN (Dylan Baker), approaches Ron, who quickly pulls the news team back together, and together they somehow make the 2 AM- 5AM slot the most viable on the entire network. And then, Burgundy falls hard again, after winning all of the Emmys and seducing his lady boss (an underused Meagan Good), and there’s a totally bizarre sequence where he goes blind, reunites with his wife and son, raises a shark, has his sight restored, and then tells the obvious Rupert Murdoch stand-in who owns GNN to go screw himself so that he can be with his family. And, there’s another news-team fight… but we’ll get there.
The movie brings back, obviously, the main cast: Ferrell, Applegate, Koechner, Paul Rudd, and Steve Carell (and Fred Willard, Chris Parnell and Vince Vaughn make their own cameos too), but it rounds out the supporting cast nicely. James Marsden has a nice turn as Burgundy rival Jack Lime, who loses a bet to Ron and is forced to change his last name to Lame. Kristen Wiig is deadpan and hilarious as Brick’s equally challenged love interest, Chani, who shares his deep love for soda machines and has only kissed two people in her dreams: a dragon and a woman with her hair on fire. There are PLENTY of welcome, incredible cameos in the News Team Fight, but I won’t spoil those. They’re too good. This movie couldn’t recreate every magic moment from its predecessor, but bringing on surprise star after surprise star definitely came close.
If I did have one complaint about the film, I guess it would be that – it’s very hard to surprise an audience when you’re trying to bring in new things and retread old jokes at the same time. I get that. For instance, the jazz flute wasn’t nearly as funny as it was the first time we ever saw it, even though this time, it was combined with ice dancing. For Ron’s interactions with his boss, they recycled an old Austin Powers joke, where the character just keeps saying the same word they’re not supposed to say over and over (although it was “black” instead of “mole” this time). The new sequences in this movie, though, were pretty fun. After the Newsteam reassembles, they hop in a Winnebago complete with a bag of bowling balls, a terrarium full of scorpions, and a deep fryer filled with chimichangas, and I’m sure you can imagine how that ends when the bus flips over (although the joke that Ron thinks “cruise control” drives the car by itself is actually pretty solid). Even the blind sequence, with Ron and his son, Walter, nursing a baby shark (that they dub Doby) back to health, is pretty hilarious just because it’s so completely absurd.
Absurdity is where the movie finds its success. Whether it’s a minotaur in the news team fight, Mack Tanner turning out to be a were-hyena (okay, one spoiler), or basically everything Brick does (Carell REALLY brought the weird in this movie, going balls to the wall by screaming and writhing through a big chunk of the movie – to great effect), the biggest laughs were when things just got so bizarre that nothing could possibly top it. No, this isn’t a perfect movie, or even an amazing one. No, it’s not as sublime as the original. But is it a ton of fun? Yes. And in an Anchorman sequel, you’re not exactly looking for perfection. It was exactly the sequel we wanted, and nothing more, and that’s completely okay.