When “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” bowed last December, it seemed like a delightful reunion with Will Ferrell’s iconic breakthrough role. As the two-hour laffer unfolded, it seemed a bit strained. The jokes and timing of the film easily made it a hit. Sparking the idea of a third film, which both director Adam McKay and Ferrell shot down. But that hasn’t stopped the film from having other ways of connecting with an audience.
The initial home video release of the first film, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” had a lot of unused material. So much so, that a second quasi-sequel was included. Sloppily pieced together with narration and a excised subplot about terrorists, “Wake Up, Ron Burgundy” was a novelty that prolonged the enjoyment of the film.
This past Friday, McKay and Ferrell tried something even more auspicious. Using the basis of the released version, most of the jokes were replaced with completely different takes. Having such an improv-heavy cast, this type of theatrical remix could be done multiple times over. So for a one-week engagement, “Anchorman 2” gets rated-R and filled with long takes and almost all new punchlines.
Seeing both films gives a better understanding of what has occurred. Similar to when both versions of “The Exorcist” prequel (“Exorcist: The Beginning” and “Dominion”) hit the screen, it’s rare to see such a move is executed. The original PG-13 sequel is funny enough but feels a bit lethargic compared to its predecessor. The R version seems to actually take it up a notch. The latest version is longer, but with a more manic recklessness that redeems the pieces lost switching versions.
Though the latter, more adult version is going to appeal mostly to fans, it could very well become the version the greater public opts for once they give it a chance. Both will find their home in many movie collections, but for those looking for an underdog version rabid with energy, give the new version a try.