When talking to fans of the original film Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, I hear a lot of: “I love that movie, but I didn’t think it was as great the first time I saw it.” It’s been eight years since we first met Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy, and he’s still every bit as obnoxiously vain. It’s a lot of fun to watch him and his supporting cast of creeps tear up the sequel, but Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is another movie that might benefit from a bit of distance.
When Anchorman 2 opens, Burgundy and former rival Veronica are happily married with a six-year old son, Walter. They’re anchors at the fictional network WBC in New York, until the CEO (Harrison Ford) calls them up to his office. Ford’s low growl doesn’t display much range, and despite his celebrity, he’s a rather sedated way to kick off a comedy. It’s much more enjoyable to see Ron and Veronica performing absurd vocal warm-ups, and a bit more of their interaction would have been a kick.
But destiny (and the screenwriters) seem determined to set Ron on his own, so Veronica and Ron separate when she gets a top anchor job, and he gets fired. This leads to just one of a series of public humiliations and low-points: Ron drunkenly hits on dolphin trainers while hosting a show at Sea World in San Diego. After a producer approaches him about anchoring a new 24-hour cable news network, GNN, Ron becomes determined to reassemble his news team and get back on top.
Ron’s outlandish friends and co-anchors are the best part of Anchorman 2, besides Ron himself. While Paul Rudd and David Koechner put in respectable supporting roles as a pair of chauvinistic (and seemingly interchangeable) dimwits, Steve Carrell’s Brick Tamland is the breakout character. Brick has his own love-interest subplot with Chani (played by Kristen Wiig), an equally awkward secretary at GNN. Brick and Chani’s romance is sweet, but painfully stupid, without much in the way of clever commentary.
When Ron begins to make waves at GNN with his new brand of news (featuring flags, kittens, hurricanes, and car chases), Anchorman 2 makes a few unsubtle approaches into social satire by focusing on the dumbing-down of the news. There’s even a bit of corporate conflict of interest when he’s told to drop a controversial story. Whenever the film uneasily approaches making a statement, it quickly retreats with a goofy non-sequiter.
Anchorman 2 also lives happily in the year 1980, with references to perms, ponytails, Diff’rent Strokes, and Soul Train. Interracial tensions become exceedingly cringe-worthy when Ron has dinner with an African American family, and blindness is the butt of way too many jokes in the final act of the film. Anchorman 2 doesn’t have anything insightful to say about these aspects of society, so it doesn’t make much of an attempt.
The most successful scenes are references to the first film that fans will appreciate: Ron’s jazz flute makes an appearance, as do multiple celebrities playing competing news teams. We won’t spoil the surprise with a Who’s Who, but we do wish that this conflict was more central to the main plot of the film.
For all of their ups and numerous, painful downs, Ron Burgundy and his crew are still enjoyable company. We could watch these four lunatic anchormen doing just about anything, even spouting random idiocy, which they do for the length of the movie. Eight years on, Anchorman 2 is not as good as the original. But then again, it’ll likely hold up well to repeat viewings and perhaps become a classic in its own right.
Score: 3 out of 4
Pros: Hilarious cast; lots of fun cameos (especially towards the end); 1980s nostalgia and social commentary; goofy, madcap humor
Cons: Interchangeable and meaningless jokes; a series of unfortunate events for Ron Burgundy; doesn’t build much on the best aspects of the original
Bottom line: Anchorman 2 features characters we love and an interesting story, but the jokes can range from mild to dull.