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"ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES"
(2013) (Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: In 1980, a boorish, all-male TV news team from San Diego attempts to make the leap to a 24-hour news channel launching in Manhattan.
PLOT:
Legendary newsman Ron Burgundy (WILL FERRELL) returns with his wife, Veronica (CHRISTINA APPLEGATE). It is 1980, and both are now co-anchors of a nightly news broadcast in New York City. Veronica is given the opportunity of a lifetime when Mack Harken (HARRISON FORD), a Dan Rather-like anchor of a nightly network news show, decides to retire and hand over the reins to her. Ron is immediately jealous and orders her to turn down the job. But she refuses, and their marriage ends in divorce.

Ron is eventually offered the 2 a.m. news shift on a newly launching 24-hour new cable channel. He reassembles his old news team from California, including bigoted sportscaster Champ Kind (DAVID KOECHNER); feature reporter Brian Fantana (PAUL RUDD); and hare-brained weatherman Brick Tamland (STEVE CARELL). Ron and the gang have adjusted to Linda (MEAGAN GOOD), their African-American boss, and run afoul of the studly star anchor of the network, Paul Lime (JAMES MARSDEN).

At the same time, Ron tries to reconnect with Veronica, best Gary (GREG KINNEAR), the new man in his ex-wife's life, and be a dad to his 7-year-old son, Walter (JUDAH NELSON). This gets harder when Ron and his team revolutionize news by giving people the information they want (sex stories, police freeway chases, proud-to-be-American segments, cute puppy videos) rather than news they actually need (sound investigative journalism, consumer financial news, etc.) Celebrity then begins to take its toll.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
The sequel "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" continues the exploits of Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), the boorish, hard-drinking, chauvinistic, yet strangely endearing news anchor who would sign off each of his broadcasts with "Stay classy, San Diego." The follow-up finds Burgundy and his wife, co-anchor Veronica (Christina Applegate), having moved to Manhattan with dreams of succeeding legendary news anchor Mack Harken (Harrison Ford) on the national level.

The film is set in early 1980s New York City, but clearly the cast and crew filmed in the modern day of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Gotham. And you just have to chuckle somewhat at the clashes of culture and the differences a few decades have made. Bloomberg is notorious for hiking tobacco taxes to stratospheric heights, extending a citywide smoking ban to all commercial establishments, implementing a trans fat ban in restaurants, and proposing to ban the sale of sodas and other sweetened drinks of more than 16 ounces.

By contrast, Burgundy is a man who is often seen emerging from a cloud of smoke. No one's going to tell him he can't eat the fattiest burger possible or drink the largest size cola he can get his hands around. The appeal of the character is in the exaggeration. Ron Burgundy not only loves the times he lives in, he IS the times he lives in. He's driving the pop-culture zeitgeist. He's living in the moment. Things like Vietnam and Watergate didn't affect him. Things like the AIDS crisis, 9/11, and the Great Recession aren't even on his radar.

I actually wasn't a big fan of the first "Anchorman" movie. I thought it was amusing in spots. But there are many, many people who think it's one of the funniest movies ever made and certainly Ferrell's best. Personally, I prefer "Elf" and "Blades of Glory." But that's just me. Surprise of all surprises, though, I actually liked "Anchorman 2" a LOT more!

Oh, it's still crass, coarse, and as wildly uneven as the first film is. But this one is actually strangely intelligent and even pointed in its commentary about how 24-hour news channels have corrupted broadcast journalism to an inescapable degree. As the film opens, Burgundy has been passed over for Mack Harken's chair in favor of ... yikes ... Veronica! This is immediate grounds for divorce, and Ron descends into heavy drinking.

He is rescued by a job offer to be one of the anchors on GNN, a first-of-its-kind, round-the-clock news network set to launch in New York. Ron quickly reassembles his old news team -- bigoted sportscaster Champ (David Koechner), hare-brained meteorologist Brick (Steve Carell), and sex-crazed assignment reporter Brian (Paul Rudd).

The crew, though, is dismayed to learn they have been given the graveyard shift of 2 a.m. to 5 a.m., while hotshot news stud Jack Lime (James Marsden) has been given the coveted primetime slot. Ron and the guys quickly start devising strategies to garner ratings and come up with gimmicks such as doing overtly patriotic stories, covering sex topics, and showing live footage of police cars in high-speed pursuit -- things that have become commonplace in today's 24-hour news cycles.

When the film is focused on its skewering of today's mass media, when it' not-so subtly skewering the culture vultures of Fox News and MSNBC, it is spot-on, quite clever, and very funny. The film finds a nice balance between delivering such commentary and working in the broad comedy of these four obnoxious relics of the '70s. Unfortunately, Ferrell, director Adam McKay and their cabal of jokesters and enablers can't maintain focus throughout and let their movie drift into sequences and digressions that play like little movies within movies, but add little to the film as a whole. There is an extended bit involving Ron going blind that just goes on too long. And an oddball romance between Carell's seemingly brain-damaged Brick and Kristen Wiig's shy, introverted receptionist never quite works and feels almost completely ad-libbed ... and not very well.

All is forgiven, though, with a battle royale climax that involves a bevy of big-name stars having a ball playing some very broad characters. I beg you. Do NOT go on this film's Internet Movie Database page because it spoils a number of the identities of the HUGE stars who cameo. You'll want to be surprised at this one. And, remarkably, every single one of these stars comes to play. No one phones it in.

And that's really what "Anchorman 2" is all about. It's about play. Ferrell and friends clearly are having a blast here, and it's not to the exclusion of the viewers. We're in on the joke. I give "Anchorman 2" a 7 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed December 16, 2013 / Posted December 18, 2018


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