“Anchorman 2” Less Funny than First Installment, Yet Admirable in its Lack of Structure

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Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues occupies a bizarre place in pop culture — even more so than the famously wacky collaborations of its director and star. The duo of Adam McKay and Will Ferrell have yielded some of the most enduring raunch of the last decade in American comedy — films of endearing idiocy and genuine warmth, as in Step Brothers, Talladega Nights, and particularly the original Anchorman. Perhaps what’s gone most unnoticed about their evolution, however, is that in recent years they’ve become oddly political in their product. The 2010 cop-comedy The Other Guys was, of all things, a very thinly-veiled critique of shady tactics within the financial world. Ridiculous though it may sound, Anchorman 2 actually takes their work even farther in this direction, all the while distancing themselves even further from narrative convention than they already were.

For indeed, Anchorman 2 is a bold departure from any sort of depiction of reality that its predecessor was already barely clinging to. This is a film genuinely admirable in its commitment to thumbing its nose at storytelling payoffs and character likability. The film details the reunion of Ron Burgundy with his gleefully sexist, racist news team of idiots in the late ’70’s — removing them from their San Diego hometown and dropping them in the midst of a 24-hour New York news channel, where they must adjust to a new set of pressures and expectations and proceed to obliviously smash through all of them.

The group’s antics and idiocy actually brings some weight with it this time around, however, smartly making The Legend Continues a little weightier than its predecessor. The main cast of Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Steve Carell are all back with their distinctively improvisational, non-sequitur-laden brand of comedy. But as it happens — their hiring aboard the first-ever 24-hour news network proves a terrible choice, given their tendency to inject the sort of fluffy, substance-free filler indicative of contemporary news networks. And that’s sort of the point of Anchorman 2 — all of the dumb-ass quotes and silly set-pieces all contribute, in a way, to the downfall of serious news reporting seen over the last three decades. It’s dumb as shit, but at least makes some effort to tie it into a moderately adult train of thought.

While none of the quotes in Anchorman 2 will reach the near-legendary status of the first — “smelly pirate hooker”, “Great Oden’s Raven!”, “I love lamp” — this is still a totally unstructured brand of comedy. Admirably so. But there’s no denying the returns have diminished noticeably for McKay and co. — it’s simply impossible to replicate something as indelibly goofy and spontaneous as the first Anchorman. The only moment that genuinely creatively exceeds the original cannot be discussed much — simply that it takes the famed news-anchors’ battle scene of the original and then runs with it into an even more absurd direction.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues certainly exists on a lower tier of quality than what’s come before from its creative team, but that’s more of a testament to their enduring qualities than this. Its not classic, but’s still brash and goofy and deeply, deeply lovable.