Christina Applegate deserves credit for helping shape the character of Veronica Corningstone in the first “Anchorman.” In the early drafts I read of the film, she was just as big a weirdo as any of the Action News team, and there was no real reason why her character ended up being the one to break the glass ceiling of San Diego local news.
Applegate was undervalued as a comic actor for the first leg of her career, no doubt because she was a blonde teenage girl and “Married: With Children” played up her hair-band-music-video-goddess appeal, but even on that show, she displayed positively deadly comic timing. Like Paul Rudd, she got reborn thanks to “Anchorman” showing off just how far out there she could push things, and in a film that was dominated by boys having a good time, she more than held her own.
When we spoke last weekend, she was both under the weather and missing her daughter, but I thought she was very frank when talking about how hard it was for her to get a handle on stepping back into the character for “Anchorman 2.”
I was actually surprised to hear someone admit that it wasn’t just an automatic process, and I thought she was very honest about how it didn’t really make sense to her at first. After all, it’s been a decade since she played the character, and most of the comedy work she’s done since then has been way more grounded and based in reality. The tone of the Adam McKay films is so particular, and the world he created is so barking mad that it’s sort of amazing they got as close as they did when they came back to try it again.
That’s always the biggest trick with sequels, and it doesn’t seem to be a skill set that every director has. There are plenty of times I’ve seen people return to the well and simply get it wrong, like they never understood what it was that people liked in the first place. I know it seems like Hollywood automatically makes sequels to anything that makes money, but it’s always seemed to me like an enormously risky proposition. The upside if you get it right is obvious, but the downside is when you get it wrong, everyone knows it immediately. Think of a sequel you saw where you just didn’t feel anything that you felt for the first film. It’s awful.
Thank goodness the entire team of total lunatics behind “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” were able to tap back into whatever madness it is that fuels McKay and Ferrell when they collaborate. The film is open in theaters everywhere now.