Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues - Cinema Review

'Like Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge or Leslie Nielsen as Frank Drebin, Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy deserves to go down as one of the all-time greatest pairings of actor and character in comedy history.'

It’s all too easy to forget that 2004’s Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy was a modest success in the year of its release, featuring relative unknowns and from first-time writer and director Adam McKay. Will Ferrell was that guy from Elf and Zoolander, having only his Saturday Night Live career and a series of bit parts to his name. Paul Rudd was Phoebe’s husband Mike in Friends who’d also cropped up in the odd rom-com throughout the nineties. Steve Carell’s biggest role was Evan Baxter, the newsreader Jim Carrey humiliates in Bruce Almighty. Nobody had heard of David Koechner.

Fast forward almost a decade and how things have changed. Anchorman now has a continually growing cult status, becoming arguably one of the most quotable films of the 21st Century. McKay has a string of writing and directing credits behind him. Ferrell has transformed into a comedy leading man, even branching out into straighter roles; Rudd has arguably followed suit with a career continually on the up. Carell’s star has risen the most from his Anchorman beginnings, making his mark on both the big and small screen. And, er, nobody has heard of Koechner.

All of which is reflected in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. The roles of each of the Channel 4 News Team have largely followed their respective actors’ success. Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) is unsurprisingly still the main focus here, with Brian Fantana (Rudd) taking on the wingman role once again with most of his major moments feeling like distinct sketches rather than crucial plot developments. Champ Kind (Koechner) gets the scraps with only a few semi-memorable moments in the film’s first act before largely merging into the background. Brick Tamland (Carell) on the other hand notably receives a considerable boost from his role in Anchorman, appearing more often and more prominently, even receiving something of a subplot in the form of romancing Kristen Wiig’s equally dim-witted Chani. The problems with this come from there being no real reason for Brick’s expanded role other than Carell now being much more famous, which makes the character a less welcome presence at times than he was in the first film.

And herein lies the biggest issue with Anchorman 2 overall. Ferrell and McKay’s heightened status means they can in many ways do whatever they want here, something which wasn’t the case when they made the first film. It shows through Anchorman 2’s flabby running time of close to two hours; Anchorman was kept at a slender ninety-ish minutes, quickly supplying a salvo of successful jokes, something which its sequel just can’t maintain to the same degree.

Plotwise, this is all over the place. Ferrell and McKay are unable - or perhaps unwilling - to choose one focus, instead seemingly throwing in every idea they have from 1980s racial insensitivity to Ron’s relationship with his estranged young son. There’s even a moralistic thread about the nature and purpose of journalism that crops up a few times.

One sequence fairly late on in the film (let’s call it the lighthouse sequence so as to give as little as possible away) stands out by feeling as though it could be from an entirely different film altogether. I’ve already seen the inclusion of the lighthouse sequence both praised and lambasted in separate reviews from two fairly major critical media outlets. It’s an oddity within the film that will surely continue to divide opinion and which to me feels like Anchorman 2’s clunkiest feature. It’s almost as if Ferrell and McKay couldn’t think of a way to bridge the second act and the finale, so just used something previously discarded that they liked even if it didn’t really fit.

And yet, despite Anchorman 2’s noticeable problems, it consistently succeeded in what must be a comedy’s primary aim: it made me laugh a lot. There’s enough here that harks fondly back to the first film, but not so much that this ever begins to feel like a lazy rehash of the original, a la The Hangover Part II. The jokes hit far more often than miss and the new additions to the cast fit comfortably into the Anchorman universe, in particular James Marsden who clearly has an absolute blast playing Ron’s new rival anchor Jack Lime. The cameos are welcome, feel expertly placed and wonderfully performed. The surreal elements when they appear are expanded considerably from the original to ludicrously entertaining levels. To say anything more would be to risk spoiling some of the film’s best moments, but suffice to say Ferrell and McKay take things to Blazing Saddles levels of ridiculous brilliance.

Perhaps, however, the key to Anchorman 2 comfortably overcoming its flaws is Ron Burgundy himself. Like Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge or Leslie Nielsen as Frank Drebin, Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy deserves to go down as one of the all-time greatest pairings of actor and character in comedy history. Ferrell doesn’t play Burgundy, he comprehensively becomes him, inhabiting the character absolutely and flawlessly, making Ron’s every scene a delight (afternoon or otherwise). It may not always go down as smooth as Anchorman, falling somewhat short of the original’s synergy of comedy writing and performance, but through its collected strengths Anchorman 2 thankfully ends up a worthy and highly entertaining sequel.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.


  1. Good review Ben. The first will always have a special place near my heart, however, this one still did fine and at least allowed me to laugh as hard as I needed to.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Dan, glad you enjoyed the review. You and I have very similar views on both films - Anchorman will always be one of my all-time favourite comedies. The sequel isn't a classic like the original, but it is still very funny with some great moments throughout.