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Movie review: 'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues' matches wits, news, and laughs

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Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

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ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES-- 3 STARS

If I were to say "Go ahead, make my day," "I'll be back," "You can't handle the truth," "Show me the money," or ask the question "Are you talking to me?," the average movie fan knows these are some of the greatest, most quotable, and often repeated movie lines. For a few more examples, check out these solid lists from The Definite Dose and AMC. The smart cookies can probably match the film and actor/actress who said them. I am probably one of those dorks. I love it when a great and catchy movie or TV line becomes so commonly used and accepted that it into society's overall vernacular. Even a non-film fan probably drops a few quotable lines in everyday talking without even knowing what they are from.

Some movies out there have built entire reputations off of their quotable lines that, in some cases, exceed the movie's actual quality or value. Ranker has a big live-voting list of the "The Most Quotable Movies of All-Time." #9 on their list, part of the Top 10 on TIME magazine's list, and #1 on another is 2004's Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. At its core, let's be honest, Anchorman is a ridiculous movie and premise that was never going to win anything bigger than an MTV Movie Award, and even that's a stretch considering its dated 70's setting compared to the millennials that vote for that crap. You either like their sort of comedy or you don't. Us men are the chief culprits.

What makes Anchorman as legendary as its title suggest is a quotability and fun quotient that exceeds that of other Will Ferrell movies and other comedies in general. The memorable lines of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy are as numerous as the main character's purported leather-bound books. You don't have to throw a dart far on Google to find a trendy t-shirt with one its lines or a YouTube video tribute to its quotability.

When the band decided to get back together for the sequel, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and announced those plans on Conan nearly two years ago, the public reaction was "kind of a big deal" (there I go doing it too). In the near-decade since the first film, the effect of it has dulled very little. Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, and Paul Rudd have all emerged as bankable Hollywood stars and are still funny. With their increased appeal, so goes the sequel, which is aiming to be the biggest box office comedy success. As you may have seen, the marketing has been creative and relentless. Ron Burgundy has been everywhere in-character, from selling Dodges and interviewing superstar athletes to busting Dan Patrick's balls and taking over entire North Dakota newscasts, here and overseas. One could almost surmise that Will Ferrell has gone Tony Clifton with this character. How soon we forget just how funny these men are out of costume too, as witnessed recently on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Once again, you either like this shtick or you don't. It's either two hours of brilliance or two hours of torturous stupidity. While it's not quite as good or instantly quotable as the first film, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is a hilarious follow-up to make this already funny world even bigger while poking great fun at our modern news. I'm in the camp that loves this sort of thing and it's arguably the funniest movie of the year. Give me these guys hamming it up over anything Adam Sandler has done for the last fifteen years.

Legendary newsman Bill Kurtis, who narrates the first film and the new one, and renowned film critic Richard Roeper, introduced Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues to a sold-out pre-screening crowd Tuesday night at the Lake Theater in Oak Park. The event was sponsored by WLS-AM radio and the two had a brief Q&A session before the movie. Richard Roeper called it the funniest movie of the year. Let's learn why.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues catches us up from the 1970's to the early 1980's. Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) and his lovely wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are now in New York as a husband-and-wife anchor team. When their old-school boss Mack Harken (the pitch-perfect Harrison Ford) passes over Ron to offer Veronica the primetime anchor chair, Ron flips out, leaves her and their clueless son (newcomer Judah Nelson), and ends up back in San Diego drunk and on the mic at Sea World. He gets a renewed chance to read the news again when a cable producer (Spider-Man character actor Dylan Baker) offers Ron a job on the graveyard shift of GNN, a cable channel backed by an Australian airline magnate (The Campaign's Josh Lawson) dedicated to the revolutionary new concept of 24-hour news.

This gives Ron the chance to get his news team back together and do something special. When Ron finds them, investigative reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) has been a successful cat photographer, sports guy Champ Kind (David Koechner) owns and operates a unique chicken joint, and weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) is presiding over his own funeral. They head to New York and an entirely new workplace at the bottom of the totem pole working in a new format. Above them in primetime are the dazzling newsman specimen of Jack Lime (the dreamy James Marsden) and a foxy African-American producer boss named Linda Jackson (Meagan Good of Think Like a Man). It's going to take some dramatic measure for our guys to make an impact in the new format of 24-hour news.

As expected, plenty of hijinks ensue along the way, cameos pop up, and the jokes are flying at every possible second. Bits and scenarios are this movie's set pieces surrounding its cable news angle. No demographic, race, role, credo, or dated 80's cliche goes unscathed. Not all of the bits work. Some of them bomb, like an extended thing with an adopted shark (don't ask). Some are copycats from the first. Some soar, like Brick's deadpan romance with a temp secretary at the station, played by Kristen Wiig, who's cut from the same obscure and clueless cloth.

Overall, the bits that work outnumber the ones that don't and add to the rich fun these actors and actresses are having playing their characters to highest possible degree. What you loved about all of them from the first movie is still here in the second. They take risks and go for broke with squeezing out the laughs. That being said, non-fans of the first film will likely remain non-fans of the second and vice versa.

The clever part beyond the arbitrary laughs are the subtle and not-so-subtle jabs Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues makes at televised news. Director Adam McKay and the actors started much of this from the first film and the ripe landscape gets appropriately skewered and belittled. Watch ten minutes of CNBC, CNN, Fox News Channel, or even their criticism on The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, and you know that they had it coming. That's where the film earns its wit and intelligence to be a step above just another rack of pre-packaged jokes with no context or target.

LESSON #1: THE SHIFT WHEN NEWS WENT FROM WHAT YOU NEED TO HEAR TO WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR-- This ethical shift didn't completely start with cable news networks in the 1980's, but they sure added gasoline to the fire. Somewhere along the way, the news went from being a public service to being in bed with entertainment and entertainment dollars. Corporations began owning news channels and influence what audience they wanted. They also pushed their agenda in screening their desired content alongside the facts. They sought their own niche and their own ratings at the expense of the truth and honesty of the news. I think the toothpaste is out of the tube on this one.

LESSON #2: THE MEASURES AND PLOYS NEWS STATIONS GO WITH TO GET RATINGS-- Here's another lesson that couldn't be more true, despite the farcical setting of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Blame marketing research and corporate ideology, but news stations, every single one of them, target their desired audience. They use tactics and make conscious decisions to get ratings. They know sex sells and violence sells. People complain when not enough good stories make the news. Well, you don't see anyone making any money from making a station of just that. It's a shame, but it's the truth.

LESSON #3: FINDING OUT WHEN YOUR EGO GETS THE BEST OF YOU-- After the life lessons surrounding the news aspect of the film, now get to the cheesy character ones. We could go easy and talk about being part of a team or getting Ron and Veronica to stay a family, but I'll aim to the root of both problems. Men, especially those who get famous like Ron, have to find ways to keep their ego in check. Ron's ego, thanks to his breakthrough national success on cable news, gets the best of him and robs him (temporarily) of his friends' and family's respect. It takes a few blows to the head and heart for Ron to fix that.

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