‘Don’t mature, Ron Burgundy’
Could there be a more fearful venture for Anchorman devotees than believing lightning could strike twice? Before enduring the 119 minute sequel, I remembered to check the releases for the 2004 original. Bill Maher’s pithy review of 2012’s The Three Stooges presents the fear most Anchorman fans should consider: “The movie was funny, but why did I believe I’d like something I thought was funny when I was 12?”
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues follows former San Diego – now New York primetime – anchorman Ron Burgundy and the Channel 4 News Team: Brian Fantana, Champ Kind, and Brick Tamland.
After his wife Veronica Corningstone is promoted and Ron is fired – which he characteristically sees as losing his job to a woman – the unemployed anchor falls into despair. He leaves his wife and son in New York and, six months later, winds up drunkenly hosting a show at SeaWorld. When this solemn life becomes too much, Ron tries to commit suicide. But a guardian angel comes in the form of Freddy Sharpp, who has a job to offer Ron: come to New York City and work at the new 24-hour news network GNN. Ron, who has no other choice, vows to work on one condition – with his #1 news team.
It is strange Will Ferrel’s other vehicles from his high period (2001 – 2008) never snowballed into the mythical proportions Ron Burgundy has. So what do director Adam McKay and writing partner Ferrel do to preserve the legend? Resurrect the dead. Anchorman 2 does nothing to distinguish from the outrageous, yet exception original. Many, if not all, of the punchlines are reprised and expected. Yet like the original, these barbs come at the most wonderfully unexpected moments.
(Mild spoilers below, beware.)
On a personal level, Anchorman 2 succeeds with a slightly not so shallow underlying narrative – the collusion between private sector and media. The cautionary tale taught in the sequel is the American preference of yellow-journalism over important events. After making a bet to beat the ratings of GNN’s primetime anchor/ new arch-nemesis Jack Lime with his 2 AM – 5 AM slot, Ron embraces a new type of reporting focused on appealing to emotions of everyday people. The overnight team easily, though surprisingly to everyone at the network, wins the bet and soon takes the primetime slot. Yet after the owner of GNN decides to black out Brian Fatana’s story on the immoral practices of an airline company (because he has stock in the airline), Ron has a change of heart on sensationalism. Veronica Corningstone has a more bitter experience when her primetime interview is cut by the station to cover a local car chase; a choice encouraged by Ron’s portrayal of knee-jerk news. This insightful and comically constructed narrative can only make me posit that Anchorman 2 presents a better, and more relevant, thesis than Wolf of Wall Street.
Anchorman 2 probably is not successful as a stand alone comedy, as many of the jokes are recycled. Yet the nearly two hour fun ride is an effective sequel by balancing the serious and the silly.