Anchorman 2: what took so long, and will it be any good?

News Sean Marland 2 Apr 2012 - 10:38

As Paramount finally announces its sequel to the classic Anchorman, Sean looks at whether it can recapture the comic brilliance of the 2004 original…

Even people who've been lying low in a safe house for a while because they're probably wanted for murder won't have missed the fact that Ron Burgundy and his loyal news team will be making a feverishly-anticipated return in 2013. But before we break out the scotch, we're wondering why it took Paramount so long to get their act together, and whether the sequel can satisfy fans who’ve been communicating in nothing but Burgundyisms since the news broke last week.

Anchorman cost $26 million to make, and delivered a healthy global box-office of $90 million when it was released back in 2004. If you take DVD sales into account (it’s currently the ninth most popular comedy film on Amazon), you start to realise that the movie must have made Paramount enough to money to deck every inch of its operation with rich mahogany. A sequel was on the agenda back in 2008, but despite the cast and co-writer and director Adam McKay openly welcoming the project (and many of them offering to take pay-cuts) the studio still wasn’t keen.

In April last year, Ferrell explained that film bosses had “run the numbers” on the sequel and “decided that it wasn't a good fit”. Presumably, they had Brick Tamland in the accounts department, because even the most conservative of forecasters would have to concede that a follow-up would smash those gate receipts with ease, so the studio’s reluctance to make a sequel was difficult to fathom. It was only after an Internet outcry and a thousand Facebook groups launched at the back end of 2011 that Paramount started to realise the sheer market for Anchorman 2.

Maybe studio bosses thought that reassembling a cast and crew whose wage structure and profile has increased since 2004 was a bit of a risk – or maybe they've been saving the film until their Twilight cash cow ran out of milk. Either way, they seem to have finally warmed to the idea, but have they waited too long, or will the most ill-informed bunch of reporters in history be able to roll back the years?

Anchorman may have achieved cult status in the years since its release, yet while it was well-received back in 2004, it wasn’t instantly lauded as a modern classic. Even now, despite claiming 113th spot in Empire’s list of the 500 Greatest Movies, Adam McKay’s comedy still holds an unspectacular mid-60 rating on Rotten Tomatoes (obviously, 60 per cent of the time, it works every time).

Just to put that into context, it’s a score that leaves it beneath Ferrell’s later comedies Blades Of Glory and Talledaga Nights, films which, despite their various merits, don’t include a character who’s been quoted more often than Arnie and Yoda combined. Taking this into consideration, it soon becomes clear that we’re dealing with a cult of personality to rival any 20th century Communist leader.

Anyone who saw Will Ferrell’s performance on Conan O’Brien last week (during which he indulged us with a flute solo and announced that a sequel had been given the go-ahead) would agree that Burgundy seems to have lost none of his charisma. That the former Saturday Night Live comic enjoys the role is also crucial, and Ferrell has made no secret of his love for the mustachioed newsreader, going so far as describing him as the most enjoyable character he has ever portrayed.

Adam McKay, Judd Apatow, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and the rest of the KVWN-TV Channel 4 Evening News team have all explained that they’re simply waiting for a call, which presumably they’ll now get.

In an industry where follow-ups are often studio-driven projects, ordered by execs with dollar signs in their eyes and created by bored actors, this has to be a good thing. Everyone knows that people produce their best work when they’re enjoying themselves, and as anyone who’s seen the separately released outtakes movie Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie will be able to tell you, the crew aren’t short of ideas.

In The Other Guys, McKay not only proved that he still has the chops for fine comedy scripting, but also that he and Ferrell remain a potent force. And with them working together on their trademark character again, it's difficult not to feel optimistic.

News team, assemble!

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