Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was a modest hit in 2004, more notable for being the launching point of a handful of careers (Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd, to a less extent David Koechner) than being a profound hit for its star (Will Ferrell). The aftermath of Anchorman was of the success of everyone involved, not of the brilliance of the film, and after the film found a much more substantial audience on DVD the idea of a sequel was bandied about.
With everyone being much more high profile the original’s small budget couldn’t be replicated, of course, but the idea of an Anchorman sequel loomed over everyone involved as this sort of comedic Holy Grail. As the years proved kind, and everyone involved found a recession not advantageous to their careers, a sequel came about and has been primed as a tentpole comedy for winter 2013.
Unfortunately the sequel is so awful it nearly ruins whatever enjoyment you can still get out of the original, which hasn’t aged all that well either.
We pick Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) sometime after the end of the first film as he is now a national anchor alongside his wife (Christina Applegate). When a long time anchor of the nightly news (Harrison Ford) decides to leave his desk to his wife, and fires Ron in the process, the newsman finds himself unemployed in New York City. To make matters worse Veronica has moved on with an overly sensitive psychologist (Greg Kinnear) and their son is as emotionally stinted as Ron is. But then a miracle happens.
GNN, a national news network, wants to hire Ron and his news team for an original concept. GNN is a stand in for CNN in this case, of course, and Ron winds up in a bind. He’s bet the best anchor in the company (James Marsden) that he can outperform them in the ratings despite Ron being on the graveyard shift. Ron has an idea that changes everything and thus propels the plot of Anchorman 2 into motion.
The problem is that the Will Ferrell moment of comedy that lasted for a lot longer than one thought it would, of the overblown man child doofus, is over. Ferrell’s shtick stopped being original, or interesting, some time ago and Ron Burgundy was the sort of embodiment of everything Ferrell’s comedy peaked as. There’s affection from Ferrell for the character, I think, because of just how much he’s done as Burgundy in advertising in the run up to the film’s release.
Burgundy in the original film was a goofy character in a goofy film, as was the rest of the cast, and that spirit permeates the film. There’s a goofy comedy vibe to the film that survives from the first, of course, and the spirit of the first resides in this one. Adam McKay and Ferrell have brought the same sort of comedy from the first to the second, matching the first in every way that matters in terms of tone, pacing and general goofiness.
The film just suffers from two main problems: trying to make a point, instead of going for laughs, and not bringing anything new or original to the table.
Ferrell wants to make a statement with Burgundy in this film about the state of media and news coverage. It’s an obvious statement, discussing the current state of media covering stories that the public wants vs. what the public needs, and the current state of the world being overlooked for what some creepy, bearded weirdo from Duck Dynasty said about homosexuals en masse the week of the film made the film’s point all that more poignant.
That’s a problem because Burgundy is moved into more of an avatar for what Ferrell wants to say about something as opposed to being a funny, genuine character that connects with people. We like Burgundy because he’s a pompous moron who’s too clever by half, not because he’s the embodiment of professionalism in media. Burgundy stands for being goofy, nothing more, and this adjustment of the character to fit a particular narrative takes that something special away from him. Regardless of your opinion on the state of the media it’s not for a character like Burgundy to be making this point. He’s not designed this way, nor is the film that sort of vehicle and it feels shoehorned into the film for any number of reasons.
That’s a problem because there’s nothing in this film on a comic basis. Ferrell and McKay have basically recycled most of the same gags from the first film to this one, including the News Team fight, and haven’t given them anything terrifically funny besides the frame work of the old gags. We’ve seen this before and Anchorman wasn’t anything original or unique in comedy to begin with. This is just recycling material that was lukewarm when it first came out, nothing more.
Anchorman 2 seemed like a great concept when it was announced but in execution it’s a candidate to become one of the worst films of 2013 on top of easily being one its worst comedies.
Director: Adam McKay
Writer: Will Ferrell and Adam McKay
Notable Cast: Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Meagan Good, Dylan Baker, James Marsden, Greg Kinnear, Kristen Wiig, James Marsden