MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues


U.S.: Adam McKay, 2013


Movie sequels can be like, I don’t know — like disappointing high school reunions: You know. You waited so long; you expect so much, but they never live up to your best fantasies.  But how could they — even with a project like Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues and even if Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, and Paul Rudd all took pay cuts to mollify Paramount’s bean-counters and make the party happen?

So it is with Anchorman 2 — and the long-awaited reunion of the incredible San Diego TV Channel 4 news team and their happily deranged, mirthfully mustachioed   leader Ron Burgundy (Ferrell). They‘reback: the fearsome foursome that were such aajournalistic legend of the ‘70s that they became  a cult comedy movie (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy) narrated by Chicago TV news legend Bill Kurtis. — the storied Channel 4 team whose superstar was the classic full-of-himself journalistic jerk Ron Burgundy, backed by his nonpareil wild bunch: the classic deer-in-the-headlights weather doofus Brick Tamland (played by Carell); the lecherous stud-on-the-street traveling reporter Brian Fanfana (Rudd), and the closeted ultra-right sports guy Champ Kind (David Koechner) ?

Well, they’re still pretty damned funny — and so is the plethora of supporting and cameo players who turn up too, Still, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues isn’t as good as it should, and could, have been — and it’s definitely not the loony landmark of movie comedy, that its predecessor could and did become. But it‘s pretty hilarious at times and it offers gainful employment to lots of very funny people, including, of course Ferrell as the staggeringly obtuse Burgundy — as well as the Burgundian’s original Dream News Team. And, even if Anchorman 2  only hits about half of its intended, laughs (which is generous), that’s still more then most sequels.

The first Anchorman was a surprise cult hit: a goofy high octane satire of TV news at its dim bulb dunderheaded worst (well, almost its worst), as played by a collection of comedy geniuses just before most of them hit it really big. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay created what became a classic movie character: the cheerfully narcissistic Ron Burgundy. a mirthfully mustachioed  would be super-stud San Diego TV news anchor, whose ego and self-delusions were  as immense as his (temporarily) high San Diego ratings  (or, in Ron‘s slightly demented translation “Sawn  Dee-ah-go“) and the erections he could never quite disguise..

People have been talking about an Anchorman sequel for years — nine to be exact, ever since 2004 — and since every movie that makes a buck or two seems to get sequelized or prequelized or otherwise knocked off, it‘s seemed almost perverse that Paramount and company have kept it off the schedule for so long. But here it finally is: Burgundy, transplanted from the star slot at San Diego, now shares the 1980 weekend co-anchor post with his one-time-rival, now-wife Veronica Corningstone  (Christina Applegate), when long-time weekday New York City anchor Mack Harken (played by Harrison Ford in full scowl) decides to retire, hires Veronica to replace him, and then fires Ron for massive incompetence,

In a heart-breaking fall from grace, Ron, who unwisely gave his wife a choice between  a high-salaried, high profile job and continued married life — is soon back in San Diego as the dead-drunk, massively incompetent announcer  of Sea World’s dolphin show, a job even the dolphins could do better. But better times betide. For some reason, persistent producer Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker) is hot on hiring Ron as the graveyard shift anchor (2 to 5 a.m.) for  a new, 24 hour cable news network, called GNN (Global News Network), run by the incomprehensible Aussie mogul and all-around crook Kench Allenby (Josh Lawson). Ron, reliably wrong as ever, thinks the idea is doomed, but reunites anyway with his all star dimwit news team —  and the boys all throw up their new gigs and sign up. Champ leaves his innovative fast food eatery  specializing in fried bat sandwiches (or “Chicken of the Cave’ as Champ calls them). Brian abandons his new renown and many double entendre possibilities, as San Diego’s leading kitten photographer, and Brick is stopped by his buddies from tearfully delivering the eulogy at his own funeral.

-Soon, they’re all in New York, joined by such memorable new characters as Brick’s equally mindless girlfriend Chani (Kristen Wiig), right-on African-American news producer Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), the viciously vain head GNN anchor Jack Lime (James Marsden), romantic rival Gary (Greg Kinnear),  and Doby, the lovable lost shark — as well as such returnees and old reliables as station manager Ed Harken (Fred Willard), and old San Diego news rival Wes Mantooth (Vince Vaughn) — but not, unfortunately, the cameraman played by Seth Rogen.  That’s okay, because this movie has more big star cameos in its last scenes (from Sacha Baron Cohen to Tina Fey, than almost any show since Around the World in 80 Days.

Some men are born legendary, some achieve legendhood and some have legendry thrust upon them. If Anchorman 2 isn’t as funny as the first Anchorman, it may be because that movie actually had a meaty theme, the trivialization of  TV news, a target that this movie just tries to repeat.

The real comic gold  in today’s TV news scene, and that of the last ten years or so, which I wish they’d been able to make fun of more, lies in the increasing politicization of TV news — and the daffy ideological wars between Fox News, the feisty conservative  network and the liberal venue MSNBC. There is major laugh potential in that combat, including perhaps a return engagement for Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin (a one-time Fox commentator), and Ferrell’s George W. Bush.

There‘s only a smidgen of a political joke in Anchorman 2– when Ron Burgundy proclaims a new policy of telling people what they want to hear and signs off with the slogan “Have more than a great day; Have an American day.” Bt considering all the comedy potential jokes they missed by staying in 1980 (Glenn Beck and his blackboard and his attacks on Woodrow Wilson and F.D.R., Bill O’Reilly and his blowups and salesmanship, Sean Hannity tossing his football, and the guests and hosts snarling and screaming at each other), this movie’s attack on trivialization begins to seem almost trivial.

Now, it may be that Ferrell and McKay figured they had to stick to chronology and keep this movie in the early ‘80s and the dawn of CNN, or it may be that somebody at Paramount was chicken about getting too political and too contemporary, and that‘s what held this movie up for so long. But the best reason for hoping (and i do) that they’ll be another sequel — Anchorman 3: The Desolation of Smog or The  Legend Returns — is to see the story, and Ron Burgundy, carried forward to the 1990s and 2000s, so we can get those more contemporary and relevant (and funny) Fox and MSNBC jokes. But anyway, A laugh is a laugh. And Ferrell, it seems, can still get his laughs, even when he’s playing to a shark.

GNN News Team Anchorman 2 Legend Continues Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues Review

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So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
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~ David Simon