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Ignoring the predictions at the end of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy as to what would become of the members of the news team in the future, this long-awaited sequel to the 2004 original takes the San Diego crew to the big time in the Big Apple with — once it gets on track — pretty funny results. As the original has become semi-legendary itself in the intervening years, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues should rack up more impressive numbers than did the first film, which in summer release grossed $85 million domestically (and only $5 million in the rest of the world). It’s bawdy, on-target in its take on what’s become of TV news, and packed with wacky performers.
“Why do we need to tell the people what they need to hear?” Will Ferrell‘s fuzzy-headed newsman queries at one point. “Why can’t we tell them what they want to hear?’ ” Such has been the direction of broadcast news since the days of Cronkite, Huntley-Brinkley, etc., and such is Burgundy’s visionary attitude when, circa 1980, he and his California buds get a gig with the nation’s first 24-hour news station, Global News Network.
At the outset, Ron is in a rut and, like the film itself, it takes him some time to get back on track. The reintroductions of the old gang have a crude, sledgehammer feel even by the blunt standards of Ferrell’s co-writer and director Adam McKay. Fired by his veteran newsman boss (Harrison Ford in a cameo) while his wife and co-anchor, Veronica (Christina Applegate, back for more), is promoted, Ron has just been bounced out of a subsequent Sea World announcing gig when, upon being approached by GNN, he tracks down his motley crew to make the assault on Manhattan.
Climbing aboard the RV are wayward sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner); swinging man-on-the-street reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), who’s reluctant to give up his gig as a kitty photographer and who counts among his friends O.J., Robert Blake and Phil Spector, and weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), who’s reported to have died but then is found speaking at his own funeral. Carell’s star has risen considerably over the past decade, of course, and the humor generated by his low-IQ character, especially when he becomes involved in an office romance with an equally dim secretary played by Kristen Wiig, pushes into seriously surreal territory. They definitely make for the weirdest onscreen couple of the year.
Owned by an impossibly rich Aussie (Josh Lawson) and run by a dynamic black woman, Linda (Meagan Good), GNN has plans to revolutionize the broadcast news industry and, to this end, it has hired the absurdly good-looking Jack Lime (James Marsden in a winning turn), for the anchor position Ron naturally thinks he should have. Assigned with his boys to the graveyard shift, Ron wagers Jack that he’ll nonetheless best the pretty boy’s ratings.
Once GNN is on the air, Anchorman 2 itself achieves full lift-off. Ignoring the script, Ron leads his broadcasts into wackier-the-better territory with such oddities as low-speed freeway chases. The hot-tempered Linda is furious at Ron for ignoring the script but then realizes she’s turned on by Ron’s disobedience, leading to some randy situations and loads of deliberately inappropriate remarks on his part, beginning with “Let’s go and have interracial sex!” and leading up to a cringe-inducing dinner party at which Ron does not endear himself to Linda’s extremely proper family.
The sensation caused by the Burgundy team’s new approach to news wins Emmys and sends GNN to No. 1 almost overnight. Ron hilariously even manages to trump competitor Veronica’s coup, an exclusive interview with Yasser Arafat, with a stunt of his own. But success also breeds discontent. As Ron and his pals argue and soon split, the outrageous edge begins to dull as the film settles into being more a series of blackout sketches than a story with a cohesive plot. A climactic city park battle of newscasters is uneventful except as an occasion to bring in nearly a dozen very big names for surprise cameos.
Especially toward the beginning, the filmmaking is quite clunky and lacking in finesse. But the comic potential of individual scenes reaps the benefit of what one would imagine to have been lots of rewriting, improv and careful preparation, as a good percentage of the funny stuff is right on the money.
Ferrell, who must have the most crooked bottom teeth of any film star ever, is, as before, a dunderheaded delight in this role; his charged exchanges with the live-wire Good in the romantic interludes and with arch-rival Marsden at the office are particular highlights. Comedically, everyone’s on the same page here, which means that, even when things flag, more fun isn’t far off.
Production: Gary Sanchez Productions, Apatow Productions
Cast: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Dylan Baker, Meagan Good, James Marsden, Fred Willard, Kristen Wiig, Josh Lawson, Chris Parnell, Judah Nelson, Harrison Ford, Bill Curtis
Director: Adam McKay
Screenwriters: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay
Producers: Judd Apatow, Will Farrell, Adam McKay
Executive producers: David Householter, Kevin Messick, Jessica Elbaum
Director of photography: Oliver Wood
Production designer: Clayton Hartley
Costume designer: Susan Matheson
Editors: Brent White, Melissa Bretherton
Music: Andrew Feltenstein, John Nau
Rated PG-13, 119 minutes
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