You know our news media is terrible when Ron Burgundy emerges as the voice of reason, but that's exactly what he does in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, when he's not busy being the clueless and offensive retro newscaster we all know and love. The cheap suits and porn mustaches are back in this long-awaited, clamored-for sequel, which cranks the silly factor up to 11 but lacks the fresh, improvisational spirit of its predecessor. There are too many funny, extremely talented folks for the film to be a total miss, but it doesn't quite hold up with the sturdiness of Burgundy's "salon quality hair".
In the grand scheme of Ferrell comedies, the original Anchorman was something of a modest hit, middle of the pack in terms of box office, but its cultural impact has been a dominating thing, and the film remains one of the most quotable movies of all-time. When someone tells you to "Stay classy", you know it's a Burgundy. Like it or not, Anchorman has secured its place in the comedy annals, whereas the sequel works better as biting social commentary, something Ferrell is becoming quite adept at of late after last year's underrated The Campaign, and his take-down of corporate criminals in The Other Guys.
But those who didn't sign up for a lesson why journalism is totally ass-backwards nowadays can take heart that Burgundy and his team of moronic anchors are just as...well, moronic as ever. Now that he's managed to wrap his pea-brain around women newsreaders and settled down with progressive wife Victoria Corningstone (Christina Applegate), the two have moved on to the bright lights of New York City as a husband and wife news team. However, Burgundy's vanity resurfaces when legendary news anchor Mark Hacken (Harrison Ford, chomping like he never left the 42set) steps down and promotes Victoria to the prime time spot. Burgundy gets straight-up canned; sent packing and left wallowing in a drunken, self-pitying misery that destroys his marriage. After a disastrous suicide attempt and even more disastrous stint working at Sea World, Burgundy gets a new lease on life when he's offered a slot on what sounds like an absurd idea: a 24-hour news network.
Burgundy rounds up his idiot musketeers in the Channel 4 Action News Team, and some of the heartiest laughs come as we see how they've all moved on. Racist sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner) owns a chicken joint; suave womanizer Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) is surrounded by pussy as a pet photographer; and braindead weather man Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) has died. Only not really. The gang hits New York expecting things to be as they always were, only to find out they've been unceremoniously dumped onto the 2AM graveyard shift, which makes his feud with prime time superstar anchor Jack Lime (James Marsden) a pretty bad idea.
And if you thought the guys had trouble dealing with women in the workplace before, racial diversity proves an even tougher obstacle. The sexist jokes of before are the mildly racist jokes of now as Burgundy deals with a sexy, brassy new African-American boss (Meagan Good), and his impromptu shouts of "Black!!" should seem very familiar to a gag from the first film. Actually, Anchorman 2's biggest failure is trying so hard to replicate old gags. Everything from the jazz flute to Fantana's wall of erotica is replicated here less effectively. They're still funny, but they aren't the big, hearty laughs of before, and what's more there isn't much of a narrative flow to the film. That wasn't such a big deal before when Burgundy's string of non-sequitors were more than enough to carry the day, but Ferrell and writer/director Adam McKay are trying to make a point this time, which proves to be a double-edged sword.
Come to find out we have Burgundy to blame for pretty much every ridiculous stunt "ratings-grabbing" idea the cable news outlets have been indulging in. Asking the question that must be plastered on Fox News conference rooms everywhere: “Why do we have to tell people what they need to know? Why can’t we just tell them what they want to hear?”, Burgundy's broadcast is little more than a 3-hour puff piece of live car chases, cute pets, home runs, and hurricane forecasts. The ratings soar, but real journalism takes a swift kick in the patootie. It's new, refreshing ground that the screenplay is tackling, and the insight it provides make for some of the film's most rewarding moments. However, I like my Burgundy more boorish and unrepentant, and without giving too much away he goes through an evolution that doesn't quite fit with the character.
While there are a lot of re-heated gags, going into this as cold as possible still proves worthwhile. A running joke involving a shark proves especially inspired, and they get some good mileage out of Brick Tamland's ridiculous courtship of Kristen Wiig's brain-addled secretary. Brick is actually more of a factor this time than either Champ or Fantana, although none of them really get a moment to shine. It's such a pleasure to see the talented Megan Good get a spot in a big film like this, and she clearly puts everything she has into the role even though all she gets to do is react to Ferrell's antics. Cameos are pretty thin until a massive and flat out bonkers sequence towards the finale that trumps the news anchor battle royal from the first film. It's so good that you can't help wishing the entire movie had that same level of energy and chaos. So even though Anchorman 2 will be worth the wait for most people, it too often felt like a rerun rather than breaking news.