Even if you live under a rock, you no doubt know that Ron Burgundy is back. Will Ferrell has been pimping himself out everywhere from ESPN to CNN to Dodge Durango ads in the past few weeks (nay, months?), leading up to Anchorman 2. The 2004 original, still one of the funniest movies of the 00s, seems to have only gotten better with age; “Milk was a bad choice” and “I love lamp” have taken on a life of their own.
So here we are nine years later, and the whole gang has returned for another go-round, hoping to keep the “funny” coming fast and furious. The good news is that, by and large, they do. And even when more than a handful of jokes fall flat, there’s still enough zaniness (and quotable lines) to consider the film a success.
Picking up a few years after the events of Anchorman, the sequel begins in 1980(ish). Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) and his now-wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are working the weekend shift at the big network, but when she gets promoted and he gets the boot (courtesy of Harrison Ford, in one of the films many cameos), things unravel for our hero quickly. After failing miserably as the host of Sea World’s dolphin show, Ron gets invited to be in on the ground floor of a new 24-hour news cable channel.
He successfully gets the band back together (Paul Rudd as reporter Brian Fantana, David Koechner as sportscaster Champ Kind, and Steve Carrel as weatherman Brick Tamland), and they’re off an running.
Anchorman 2’s strengths lie not only in the script by Ferrell and director Adam McKay but in the performances themselves. Suffice to say that these four gents have not mellowed with age. If anything, they’re even more off-the-charts loony than ever. Ron’s “casual” racism gets the better of him when he learns his new boss is, as he puts it, “African and American”, Champ still enjoys Ron’s scent (and has missed it), and Fantana’s sex panther makes a welcome return. It’s Carrel as Brick, though, who gets to shine the most; the imbecilic weatherman earns what feels like double the screen time (and, therefore, laughs), and he also gets a sympatico love interest (Kirstin Wiig).
That’s not to say Anchorman 2 doesn’t have its issues. While the first, which clocked in at barely 90 minutes, seems like an easy, breezy satire, the sequel hits the two-hour mark and seems to take itself far more seriously than it has any right to. There’s an entire subplot about two-thirds of the way through (involving an unfortunate accident that befalls Ron) that probably should have been jettisoned somewhere in the script-polishing phase.
Likewise, the rumors of multiple A-list cameos had me looking forward to the introduction of every new character, but it was almost a letdown when they all showed up at once right near the end.
Anchorman 2 will, I’m sure, endure for years (and rightly so), and its best lines will be plastered on t-shirts momentarily, if not sooner: “Have an American night.”, “By the bedpan of Gene Rayburn!”, and “I will lock you in a closet!” are among the highlights. But maybe when the director’s cut DVD arrives in a few months, instead of including even more, they’ll wisely do a little editing and make the film the tight, focused comedy that it should have been.