Everyone let out a deep breath: Will Ferrell and Adam McKay didn’t screw up a good thing. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues holds its own as a sequel to the 2004 original. The Judd Apatow-produced comedy takes the Channel 4 news team out of San Diego (or “Sahn Dee-ahgo”) and places them in New York City on a brand new network with a new line-up of characters. The result is a highly-anticipated (and highly-promoted) comedy that provides a nearly identical experience these guys gave us nearly 10 years ago.
The sequel begins seven years later in 1980 with the retirement of legendary newsman Mack Harken (Harrison Ford), which leads to the promotion of Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) and the harsh firing of Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell). Down on his luck, Burgundy is recruited by producer Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker) for an upstart, unprecedented 24-hour news network, GNN. This leads to a clash of “We’re getting the band back together,” scenes as he tracks down Champ Kind (David Koechner), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), and not-dead self-eulogizing Brick Tamland (Steve Carell).
Burgundy’s problems are no longer about ratings and competing network news teams; now he faces joint custody issues, journalism ethics and the temptation of black women. McKay doesn’t do a bunch of, “Milk is still a bad choice,” callbacks, although there is a revisit to an Anchorman musical favorite. He includes just enough to honor the first film, without tiring out classic lines. For example, Brian Fantana’s secret collection of colognes is followed up this time around with an exotic array of condoms, which he reveals when the team has “the talk” with Brick.
While Anchorman 2 is truly hilarious, it doesn’t move as quickly as the original; this is especially evident during the first act. Certain scenes, though terribly funny, seem forced. And the film runs about 25 minutes longer than the original, clocking in at 119 minutes. It’s a shame because part of what made the first film so great was how quickly it moved from joke to joke and from plot point to plot point.
On a recent episode of WTF with Marc Maron, Ferrell revealed the filmmakers battled heavily with the MPAA over the film’s rating. Paramount, for obvious reasons, wanted a PG-13 movie it could release like the original. Apparently there were a lot of re-cuts to get the sequel down from its initial R-rating. The problem with that is that this honestly should have been an R-movie. Part of what made the first Anchorman such a fan favorite on DVD was the extended, unrated version. McKay has said they shot so much of Anchorman 2 that he felt he could have made a whole second movie with completely different jokes.
We won’t say that this is a movie you should wait to see on DVD or Netflix, because it is certainly worth the price of admission with its epic surprise cameos and steady stream of laughs. But you should also wait for the DVD when you can see the unrated version McKay and co. weren’t allowed to show you in theaters. If previous Apatow films with these actors are any indicator, the DVD will have hours of material that will keep you laughing for another 10 years.