ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES. Starring: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, and Christina Applegate. Directed by Adam McKay. Rated M (Sexual references, drug use, coarse language and comedic violence). 119 min.
This film is the sequel to the 2004 original movie, "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy". It is directed also by Adam McKay, and involves many of the original cast, including Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy the egotistical newscaster; Steve Carell as Brick Tamland, his neurotic weatherman; David Koechner as Champ Kind, his clingy sportscaster; and Paul Rudd as Brian Fantana, his mildly sensible field-reporter.
The story centres around Ron's Television News Team in the US which achieved great notoriety in the 70s. Ron was acknowledged then as the top rated newsman in San Diego, but his team eventually lost its popularity and disbanded. The team comes together again when a 24-hour news channel is being programmed some ten years later. The plot moves from San Diego to New York after the onset of cable news in the 1980s, and shows us the rise again of Ron Burgundy, who heads up a rival news program to the one now headed by his estranged wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate).
The original movie used its comedy intentionally to confront. Burgundy's news team in the 70s was chauvinistic, nationalistic, self-opinionated, and sexist ("Its Anchorman, not Anchorlady"), but the scripting of the original was full of memorable one-liners. In the 80s, not a lot has changed. The team isn't behaving much better than it did ten years ago, largely because those in it are still much the same kind of people, and some lines continue to have a sharp edge. Ron asks his wife provocatively whether their small son "is a midget with a learning disability". We are told that "washing your hands is for nerds", and that "suicide makes you hungry".
This film as a whole is a satire on race, the media, the rise of technology, and the monopoly of news outlets and their competition with each other to find profit in "crazy ratings". The result is a volatile mix of zany comedy situations in which Ron Burgundy and his all-male news team, dressed to over-kill in snappy suits, take aim at a range of targets in a familiar way. In the sequel, they emerge as character types, rather than fresh personalities, but that is how many of those who enjoyed the first film would want the sequel to be.The use of the number 2 in the title suggests that other sequels are being planned.
This is a movie that captures the spirit of the original, but adds not a great deal more. There are some things that are different. It spoofs other movies in a way that the original film did not, and it capitalises comically on the tensions generated by the digital age, and the extent to which the media is ruled by the profit motive. The film's ending is insane and completely unrealistic, and is a mishmash of well known action movies, with cameo appearances by Liam Neeson, Harrison Ford, Tina Fey, and Jim Carrey.
To keep the fans of the original film happy, the movie maintains its exaggerated originality, and is comical in the same eccentric way. The formidable comedy skills of the old team are also apparent in the mix. Frequently, however, the film oversteps the mark in trying to debunk political correctness. The dinner party of Ron with his girl friend's black family is mind-shatteringly embarrassing, and searches for its humour intentionally in making unacceptable fun of black people.
This is a movie essentially to keep the ardent fans of the original film happy. It is enjoyable, in parts, but the film's title is accurate when it tells us that the legend "continues", and chances are that we will be headed to get more of the same, if there is an "Anchorman 3".
Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for film and broadcasting.
Out December 19th 2013.