Film Review – Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Somewhere in the world, a news anchor is crying. It’s late and the day has been long. The world is sad and beautiful and there is only so much news a person can report. That’s the job of a news anchor, though—to keep on trucking even when it feels so futile. For if the news anchor is not there to deliver what’s worthy of knowing about, then the system breaks down, the world crumbles. This is the world of Anchorman—a time in the ’70s when news reigns supreme and the news anchor is closer to deity than celebrity. That’s why Anchorman works. It’s fantasy.
Judd Apatow and company’s 2004 film is aptly subtitled The Legend of Ron Burgundy. By doing so, the presentation of the film states that it is larger than life, that Ron Burgundy is larger than life. What amplifies the legend, though, is the world he inhabits. Ron Burgundy and his news team are rock stars, but that’s because the world they live in treats them like one, and it’s through that presentation that Anchorman succeeds in its humor. This isn’t reality; Ron Burgundy and crew’s behavior is funny to us because we get to see them in a context where their inane antics somehow work. In Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, the crew is reassembled and director Adam McKay returns to helm the boat. Moving the setting to the ’80s is a perfect premise to follow up the psychedelic ephemera and masculine dysfunction that is, or was, the Anchorman News Team, and propels them into a decade that itself was excess and hyperbole. Somewhere in the process of execution, it feels a lot more modern than the 1980s.
That’s the gist of it, unfortunately. A movie that tells you something but doesn’t really feel like it’s trying to be what it tells you. There is a laziness to the delivery that’s either because of a sense of overconfidence or a lack of passion. The movie opens where the previous left off, with Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) co-anchoring the news in New York. Soon things change, and Ron finds himself propelled away from his job and family that now includes a son. Ron is approached by Dylan Baker, who’s recruiting for the world’s first twenty-four-hour news station, and offers Ron and his news team a spot. At first the film aimlessly wanders for a bit, but then it throws a whole lot of craziness at the wall as we watch everything not stick and slide down into almost obscurity.
What mainly doesn’t work is how the film takes Burgundy and crew out of the fantasy element that made them rock stars and instead delivers them into a more realistic setting, where their childlike, goofball behavior is not accepted. When Burgundy goes to his meet his new girlfriend’s family, his behavior is so racially uncomfortable and the family is so straight-laced that the jokes come off stiff and out of place. Throughout the film, our returning characters are looked at as ineffectual, and instead of the humor playing off their brazen attitude, it attempts to make light of them by making them out of place and uncomfortable. Jokes are recycled in a motif all too common for comedy sequels, where the filmmakers think the only way to repeat success is to do the same thing again. The jokes feel as rehashed and tired as they come off.
In the wake of this lackadaisical, fan service approach is the team that surrounds and supports Ron Burgundy. Champ Kind (David Koechner), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) are more or less pushed to the sides, and when they are featured, it’s really only to support Burgundy in the moment. Except for a Wayne’s World 2 inspired love story, the news team isn’t really a team, but a group meeting. Disappointingly, this also means that Christina Applegate doesn’t get much screen time, and when she does it’s to also be a support structure for a self-destructing Burgundy, who only seems to be self-destructing because he’s being treated like a fish-out-of-water. Applegate originally provided the perfect juxtaposition to Burgundy’s narcissistic antics, and not only reinforced the film’s theme of gender equality, but reinforced her place as a great comedic actress. This time around, Veronica Corningstone has been neutered of her comedic placement; this is, after all, a boy’s game where bets are made to change last names, and condoms are designed to not work.
With a running time of practically two hours, there’s bound to be something funny that pops up, and there is. Unfortunately, by the time we reach what appears to be the now obligatory news station fight, the movie’s worked so hard to place the absurdity of the first film in an environment that’s all too self-conscious that the absurdity of the fight itself doesn’t work. These people don’t belong in this world and therefore their existence is as out of context as it is a pure grab to have a bunch of celebrity cameos as a climax. The commentary on modern day, twenty-four-hour news is a nice touch, but it ultimately only stands out because of how it really has nothing to do with what’s taking place on the screen most of the time. As the man says the first time Burgundy essentially begins his path of reporting puppy dogs and American pride, “This goes against everything we stand for.” And somewhere a news anchor is crying.