'Anchorman 2' undergoes total joke replacement in new R-rated — and longer — version

The New York TimesFebruary 27, 2014 

Film Anchorman 2

Will Ferrell, star of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, also helped write it.

CHARLES SYKES — Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

  • IF YOU GO

    'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues: Super-Sized R-Rated Version'

    R for crude and sexual content, drug use, language and comic violence. Paramount. 2:23. Fayette Mall., Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Woodhill.

LOS ANGELES — 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 in December, is poised for a fresh release by Paramount Pictures in about 1,000 theaters Friday. But with all new humor. It's officially called Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues: Super-Sized R-Rated Version (the film was rated PG-13).

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.

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

What is the logic of completely overhauling a film that already is 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 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, 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 re-release, mostly, McKay said, because it had never been done. "It's crazy," he said.

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