A film review by Craig J. Koban December 31, 2013  



2013, PG-13, 119 mins.


Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy  /  Christina Applegate as Veronica Corningstone  /  Steve Carell as Brick Tamland  /  Paul Rudd as Brian Fantana  /  Kristen Wiig as Chani  /  David Koechner as Champ Kind  /  Harrison Ford as Mack Harken  /  James Marsden as Jack Lime  /  Meagan Good as Linda Jackson

Directed by Adam McKay  /  Written by Will Ferrell and McKay

To take a page right our of his vernacular: GREAT ODIN’S RAVEN, newsman Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) has certainly hit rock bottom at the beginning of ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES.  

The once iconic San Diego (or is it San Di-AH-go?) reporter has been working alongside his wife, Veronica Cornerstone (Christina Applegate) on a highly prestigious New York news channel.  One day they are dragged into their boss’ office (Harrison Ford, quietly frightening), during which time he tells Veronica that he’s promoting her and royally firing Ron, mostly due to his grotesque on-air incompetence.  Thankfully, Ron does not drown his sorrows in milk on a hot day this time.  Instead, he separates himself from his wife, becomes an alcoholic, and gets fired from his new job as a Sea World presenter after a botched suicide attempt.  Ron is such a bumbling doofus that he can’t even off himself. 

It’s been nearly a decade since the original ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY was bestowed upon the viewing world.  Although not a massive box office success for its time, it nonetheless became a cult comedy classic and arguably one of the most beloved and quoted screen comedies of the last decade.  Not only was it a giddily absurdist comedy with more laughs per minute than most of other comedies of its era – before or since – but it also managed to be an effective satire of the deep seeded sexism that permeated the newsrooms of Carter-era America.  Yet, Ferrell's toxically misogynistic and dimwitted Burgundy remained intrinsically loveable because of his ignorance.  Certainly, expectations for a sequel have been monumentally high since the initial film’s 2004’s release, and this new entry does not have the capricious freshness of approach and high laugh-out-loud quotient of it.  Yet, like Sex Panther cologne, 60 per cent of the time, this sequel works amusingly well all the time. 



Anyways, back to Burgundy.  After failing to kill himself he’s greeted by a rep from a new fangled 24-hour news channel – completely unheard of for 1980 – and he’s offered the job of the network’s show…but for the graveyard shift.  Nonetheless, Ron is excited as ever, so he gathers back his old news team gang – comprised of weatherman Brick (Steve Carell), sportsman Champ (David Koechner) and field reporter Brian (Paul Rudd) - but he faces some very stiff new competition and obstacles both on air and behind the scenes.  Yet, with Ron’s unorthodox spirit of improvisational invention (or, making it up as he goes), both he and his crew generate a huge ratings boost for the new network, which places him and his pals back on the map of success.  As he joyously boasts at one point, “I’m going to do the thing that God put Ron Burgundy on this Earth to do: Have salon quality hair and read the news.”  Alas, with Ron's newfound sense of triumphant achievement comes the inevitable setbacks that just may derail his return to legendary status once and for all. 

Like the first ANCHORMAN, this sequel is a bizarrely madcap engine designed to do just about anything to make us laugh, and Ferrell – as he did before – proves that he’s a more than capable quarterback of harnessing this film’s raw surge of nonsensical comedic mayhem.  Even when Ferrell and his co-writer/director Adam McKay seem to meander a bit too much in the overall story and fail to generate modest chuckles in some setups, the film nonetheless remains infectiously idiotic and deliriously entertaining for the most part.  It’s all held gloriously together, of course, by the manner in which Ferrell plays up to Ron’s gargantuan ego and, yes, his frequent lack of common sense.  Mr. Burgundy may have unhealthy attitudes about women and minorities and never seems to have his finger on the pulse of what matters in the news, but he’s not a mean person, per se.  For the most part, he just can’t help being a hapless stooge, which makes him strangely endearing.  Take, for instance, an early scene in which he asks, “Who the hell is Julius Caesar? You know I don’t follow the NBA!”  See what I mean. 

ANCHORMAN 2 is also a pretty spot-on spoof of the changing climate of news reporting in the early 80’s, especially for how serious journalism gave way to more mundane and sensationalistic 24-hour news cycle coverage.  Ron and his partners' coverage of events only reinforces this, like how he and Brian do an investigative piece on the dangers of crack cocaine…by using crack cocaine on live TV.  Then there’s the manner that Ron insists on more information graphics on screen so that he nearly becomes impossible to see, or the way that his impromptu coverage of a seemingly ordinary police chase down a freeman becomes the go-to news segment.  Even though ANCHORMAN 2 is a manically over-the-top comedy, it still has something deep down to say about how the news of its era – and perhaps today – seems void of relevance and meaning.  

The satire does not end there, though.  There’s a truly inspired dinner sequence that has Ron and his new girlfriend, Linda (Meagan Goode) visiting her incredibly straight-laced upper class family.  Yet, because Ron is an unintentionally hostile sexist and racist, he attempts to bridge the gap between white and black by…attempting to talk jive to Linda’s family, even at one point referring to them as “pipe hittin’ bitches.”  The film's most amusing sequence is saved for last, as McKay and Ferrell stage an epic battle in a New York park between various news teams from around the world, which showcases a dizzying number of high profile cameos that have to be seen to be believed (the aggressively apologetic Canadian team is well represented).  Thankfully, though, Brick has retired his trident for a laser rifle from the future.  Don’t ask. 

The film has a number of other funny highlights, like Brick’s creepily hilarious courtship of a newsroom secretary (Kristin Wiig), and a sly scene where Brian shows his bromates his stash of condoms that puts his cologne collection to shame.  And then there’s a subplot that’s perhaps too outlandish to even describe, as Ron becomes blind and decides to live a hermit’s life in a lighthouse (he becomes so downtrodden that he even admits to “paying a hobo to spoon with me”).  There’s also a funny recurring bit involving Greg Kinnear as Veronica’s new lover, a psychologist that Ron fears has the ability to read minds (this pays off handsomely later).  Perhaps the single funniest line in the film is not from Ron or his buddies at all, but rather during Harrison Ford’s all-too-brief cameo as Ron’s ex-boss, who boastfully relays to him that he “killed 4 men in Okinawa…just two weeks ago.”   

Yeah…yeah…ANCHORMAN 2 is not ANCHORMAN 1’s equal, to be sure.  This sequel – at nearly two hours – seems to suffer from too much narrative bloat and lacks the streamlined momentum and strong pacing of its 97-minute antecedent. And, yeah, the new film is not as endlessly quotable, even though it does have its share of soon-to-be classic zingers (like “I’m not trying to be funny. But are you sure he’s not a midget with a learning disability?”).  And, yeah, ANCHORMAN 2 is a bit more scattershot with its belly laughs and lacks the consistent hilarity of the first.  Yet - “By the hymen of Olivia Newton John!” - I did laugh…and laugh a lot throughout the film.  Ron and his pals are just as delightfully madcap as ever, and seeing them stumble via their own collective stupidity is as joyous as ever.  Keep your expectations in check, and ANCHORMAN 2 is a good time.  If you don’t, then you’re setting yourself up for PHANTOM MENACE levels of heartbreak.

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