Anchorman 2: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
PG-13 for Minotaur maiming, 119 minutes
Fair Value of Anchorman 2: $3.00. A mediocre retread leavened by good jokes, passable filler for Will Ferrell enthusiasts.
Go Fuck Yourselves San Diego: Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) breaks out of being a local news anchorman and plays a part in the rise of CNN and the modern world of 24 hour news. Of course the noxious nectar of global celebrity causes him to forsake his wife Veronica (Christina Applegate) and, eventually, his news team (Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, and David Koechner). Ron’s got a new love (Meagan Good) because of course we need jokes about racial insensitivity. Ron has a new rivalry with the polished Jack Lime (James Marsden), which is the sub-plot that falls flattest. And there’s a subplot with Brick (Carell) finding love in Chani (Kristen Wiig), because the courtship rituals of the incomprehensibly stupid are funny. Though I think that Brick is more likely an Andy Kaufman-type performance artist than a person with actual disability.
The film tracks to a familiar course: hubris, alienation, accident, recovery, approach to a comeback, forsaking fame for family. Yawn. There are the traces of a clever film satirizing the dawn of CNN here- had they stuck with the notion of Ron Burgundy evolving into a Geraldo/Bill O’Reilly figure, there might have been a skeleton of satire on which to center the jokes. But overall, it’s too disorganized, a grunting stream of non sequiturs thrown out in a desperate chase to dig every vein of comedy gold that can be found.
Obsolescent Signifiers of Masculinity are Funny! I think the success of Anchorman had a lot to do with the same nostalgia that powered That 70s Show. The 1970s were an absurd, grandiose, and tacky time; just like most times are, in retrospect. For people of Gen X/Millennial age, comedy about the late 70s/early 80s is a generational schadenfreude: sure our parents can tell embarrassing stories about our childhood, but we can point to the buffoonery they once considered the height of fashion.
Anchorman was the long overdue satire of 70s cologne commercials, and the other tropes that once enabled Barry Gibb and his like to become sex symbols. This provided ample grounds for comedic exploration.Will Ferrell could have gotten a lot of comedy from satirizing the transitioning attitudes of the early 1980s. Imagine Ron adopting a neon pastel pink suit a la Miami Vice. Or think of a comedic version of the second half of Boogie Nights– everybody addicted to cocaine, voting for Reagan, and wearing excessive shoulder padding.
Instead we get a classic instance of Sequelitis. That’s a cinematic disease that causes the actors to repeat lines and jokes from earlier films, except hammier and more excessively. Check, the news teams battle again; check, there’s another sliding panel to reveal a secret trick of the gigolo trade (condoms instead of cologne).
Ultimately, the film feels more like the Ron Burgundy sketch show than a comedy film. There’s nothing setting the pace of the jokes- they just move in every direction. I can’t remember any running gag in this film except for the shout-outs to the last film. It doesn’t build to anything, though you do get to see some A-lister comedians riffing and getting the occasional knock-out joke. I found it instructive that I laughed the hardest at the lines that were said as deadpan one liners in sotto voce.
A bad sequel makes you question your own judgment in liking the first film. I suppose I’ll re-watch Anchorman just to reassess how overrated it was. This film is running on the fumes of genius, and coasts squarely to a middling position in Ferrell’s body of works.