Considering the massive overkilled marketing push behind this film, the inspired mix of absurdest humour and sharp satire make Anchorman 2 a genuinely pleasant surprise. The almost 10 years between the first film and this one is worth the wait. While the character of lovable buffoon Ron Burgundy and his outlandish gags and set pieces are finely tuned, it’s the film’s sharp critique of the commodization of modern news which sets the film apart from other money-making franchise ventures, such as 'The Hangover'.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013) dir. Adam McKay
Starring: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Steve Carell
By Alan Bacchus
The passage of time in the making of this film extends into the plotting here as well. We’re in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, years after the first film. Ron Burgundy and his partner Veronica Corningstone are still a crack team of news anchors from San Diego. Their partnership is tested when Corningstone is offered a national news desk job in New York City, but without Burgundy. As expected Burgundy’s response is obscenely selfish, splitting the couple and sending our hero onto his journey from the bottom back to the top.
Burgundy is soon offered a job by an especially sketchy-looking Dylan Baker who is hiring for a new 24 hour news cable channel. Burgundy naively laughs off the idea in his typically over-the-top fashion, but he does take the job.
There’s a fun sequence featuring Burgundy ‘getting his team back together’ – a clever way to introduce his three laughable compatriots, weatherman Brick Tamland (Carell), sportscaster Champ Kind (Koechner), and investigative journalist Brian Fantana (Rudd). The quartet have not worn out their welcome, writers McKay/Ferrell admirably recycle old gags and orchestrate a number of riotous new ones. In particular a shortish subplot about Champ’s new fried chicken restaurant using bats instead of chickens is downright hilarious.
If anything Carell is underused as Brick Tamland. His gags continue to follow random nonsensical deadpan one-liners. But with a love interest in Kristin Wiig – his female equivalent (the same case as in Melissa McCarthy’s appearance in Hangover III) – Tamland gets more screen time. Sadly his gags are mostly dead air.
The film exemplifies itself with its surprisingly sharp and relevant critique of modern news agencies who use cute animals, car chases and other salacious stories to anchor their newscasts, and arguably tarnish the reputation of its serious journalists. The 24 hour news network is an obvious a jab at CNN, but the network’s bombastic owner, Kench Allenby (Josh Lawson) is a smart comical hybrid of Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch and Richard Branson.
At two hours it threatens to run long, especially in the overly extended action climax, a repeat of the cameo-heavy street fight sequence featuring the other news teams. The appearance of Vince Vaughn which extends the sequence way too long adds nothing to the film. But, however bizarre, we can’t help love Ron Burgundy and follow him through to the end of his journey - proof of Will Ferrell’s strong acting chops beyond his sketch/improv origin and the viability of his character, in the same way we loved Austin Powers. There’s genuine character here, and Burgundy’s development is not lost on us. That all said, after the marketing overkill of Ferrell as Burgundy in the media circuit last year, I’m fine for not seeing the character for another 10 years.
Anchorman 2 is available on Blu-Ray from Paramount Home Entertainment