‘Anchorman 2’ returns to theaters in even more off-color version

03/01/2014 11:26 PM

03/01/2014 11:27 PM

Take a raunchy Hollywood comedy, remove the jokes, and what do you have left?

Room for 763 new, and even raunchier, jokes.

In what appears to be the movie equivalent of blood replacement therapy (and possibly a cinematic first) “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” – released by Paramount Pictures in December – returned to about 1,000 theaters last Friday in a version with all new humor. Why?

In this era of high-speed digital editing, the better question is: Why not?

“We started talking and realized, we can replace every single joke in the movie with another joke,” said Adam McKay, who directed “Anchorman 2” and wrote the film with its star, Will Ferrell.

McKay said that “there were a couple of jokes left for continuity” but that 95 percent of the gags were stripped out and replaced with alternate bits that had been left behind in the editing process.

What is the logic of completely overhauling a film that is already a hit? The impetus was not exactly about making more money. “Anchorman 2” has already topped $125 million in domestic ticket sales and is likely to expand that total only slightly with a seven-day re-release. Video sales of both versions will follow on April 1.

Rather, McKay said, the idea grew naturally from the improvisational nature of the “Anchorman” films, in which Ferrell plays pompous newscaster Ron Burgundy and often lingers in character, both on camera and off.

“There are tons of leftover alternate takes when we shoot; that’s our method,” McKay said.

Initially, he noted, the filmmakers planned to use some of the extra shots in a conventional, extended video edition, as they did with the original “Anchorman” and its unrated version, released on DVD. But McKay, Ferrell and an editing team that included Melissa Bretherton, Brent White and Jay Deuby eventually decided to go for broke, with a full joke replacement.

Then, Paramount executives surprised them by insisting on a theatrical rerelease, mostly, McKay said, because it had never been done before.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “Normally, you’d think I’d be the one asking for a new release.”

In an unusual matchup of mashups, the re-release – officially called “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues: Super-Sized R-Rated Version” (the film was rated PG-13) – will open against 20th Century Fox’s “Son of God,” a religious film built from the television series “The Bible,” with added scenes.

The new “Anchorman 2,” according to McKay, will be dirtier, not cleaner, than the original.

The revised version, McKay added, will be considerably longer than the original, which clocked in at 1 hour, 59 minutes. At McKay’s insistence, it is to be labeled “supersized.”

“You should feel free to get up, go the bathroom,” he advised, referring both to the length and the optional nature of the material.

And, no, McKay does not believe the new version is actually better than his first cut, which achieved a middling score of 61 on the Metacritic website, which compiles and rates reviews.

“This is a stitched-up, Frankenstein version,” he said, for those who need the whole Ron Burgundy experience – including misfires, obscure sendups and plenty of jokes to match Ferrell’s off-color jacket. “You’ll either love it or hate it.”

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