I thought Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues was hilarious, and it was no surprise that there was an alternate cut featuring different jokes. There was plenty of riffing on set, and director Adam McKay had a wealth of choices when trying to find the right jokes. Even at two hours, the original breezed by, and while I didn’t like it quite as much on a second viewing, it was still quite enjoyable. Now a “Super-Sized R-Rated” version has been released, and in many ways it improves the original by showing that McKay made the right call on which jokes to use and which ones to leave on the cutting room floor. Although there are some additions in the new version that are superior to the original, the new cut is plenty of bloat to the point where some of the jokes don’t even make sense. The comic timing is completely off as it seems like the goal of the new version was to add more and make it slightly different, but not better or even as good as the original.
The plot of the new version is almost completely identical to the original. The prologue and epilogue have been changed, and there’s the addition of a musical number that absolutely stinks, but other than that, all of the scenes are the same. It’s still the story about Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) reassembling his news team, and going to work at the 24-hour news network, GNN. There’s still the satirical aspect of lampooning infotainment, and the goofy, irreverent vibe of the comedy remains. It’s still Anchorman, but it’s like the talented sports player who comes back from the off-season and he’s horribly out of shape.
The R-rated version has a promising start as we see alternate cuts of Ron’s warm-up and then an extended scene of Ron explaining to his son that life is about drinking horsepiss. The horsepiss scene would have been a welcome addition to the original, and the alternate warm-ups are a fun treat. But then the movie starts devolving into plenty of jokes that don’t work. It’s not just a matter of these jokes being less funny than the ones in the original version; they’re flat-out not funny. A few of the jokes are flat-out confusing since they don’t follow lines that came before.
For example, when Ron reunites with Champ (David Koechner), Champ explains why he was fired from Channel 4. In the original, it’s a brief explanation with one joke and the story moves on. This time, the story of his firing goes on and on as Champ relates how he got blackout drunk, and then clearly got into a fight, wreaked havoc, and was injured in the chaos. But then he goes to the same line from the original about “faking a work injury” and using the settlement money to fund Champ’s Chicken Shack. How could he fake a work injury if he was already injured from the fight he started at work? It makes the editing come off as careless, and the new version feels like an interesting experiment at best and a lazy cash-in at worst.
There is an educational aspect as we see how little tiny changes can completely alter the flow of a picture. It’s not just a matter of knowing which jokes to use, and which jokes to cut, but also the little nips and tucks that can keep a picture humming. Normally, we associate editing with flashy moves and tricky narratives, but the new version of Anchorman 2 is an important reminder of how editing is essential to comic timing.
However, this R-rated version (and I’ll pause for a moment to note that R-rating means using the word “fuck” a few more times and also an occasional mention of “pussy” and “cock”; it’s not a raunchier picture) is focused on expansion rather than timing, it dilutes the jokes that work (like the one about Brick’s (Steve Carell) shadow) and makes the weaker stuff from the original cut—like Brick’s loudness and his relationship with Chani (Kristen Wiig)—almost unbearable.
In many ways, the new cut makes me appreciate the original version, but it also has me questioning it. Unlike Wake Up, Ron Burgundy!, which is an entirely new film made from cut scenes from Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and tied together with narration, the “Super-Sized R-Rated Version” is still, at its core, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. And while I was eager to see the movie again, the new version surprisingly brings out the story’s weaknesses. It makes the plotting look shoddy, the order of the scenes feel haphazard, and makes me wonder how much time I really want to spend with these characters. It catches the original in a different light, and it’s not an altogether flattering one.
It’s best to consider the new version a curiosity, and one that doesn’t demand immediate viewing. It provides a new perspective on the original, but it doesn’t come anywhere close to the quality. The “legend” continues, and the “Super-Sized R-Rated” version comes from an alternate universe where we all regret clamoring for a sequel.