Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues


The saying doesn’t go that the family that reads the news together stays together, but it ought to as far as Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is concerned.  Ron and his wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are living the dream as television news co-anchors at a New York City network affiliate in ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES until she is selected over him to fill the opening on the six o’clock evening broadcast.  To make matters worse, Ron is fired.  For a man who places his self-worth in his occupation--OK, and his hair too--it’s more than he can take.  He abandons Veronica and their six-year-old son and returns to San Diego with the hope of reclaiming past glory.

Renewed fame and fortune aren’t awaiting him, sending Ron into a depression, but the big break he needs arrives in the nick of time.  Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker) approaches with the offer of manning the desk at Global News Network, the first 24-hour cable news channel.  Ron tracks down former members of his news team Champ Kind (David Koechner), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and goes back to New York to take his rightful place in front of the TelePrompter.  Relegated to the dead of night shift, Ron has no choice but to traffick in sensationalism.

Many Hollywood comedies, especially sequels, play it safe by giving audiences more of what they already approved.  Ferrell and co-writer and director Adam McKay certainly don’t skimp on repeating by slightly tweaking similar bits that fans loved in the original 2004 film.  They also acknowledge the fans by giving popular secondary characters showcase moments, although such inclusions can make ANCHORMAN 2 seem overstuffed.  In addition to the tried-and-true, they make room for a lot of new and strange comedic ideas.  Not all of the weird straying from the otherwise straightforward redemption story hits the mark.  Ron’s self-imposed isolation in a lighthouse after losing his sight takes things too far afield for too long without enough payoffs in laughs.  Still with something this ambitious the clunkers have to be taken with the good, of which there’s a sufficient amount.

ANCHORMAN 2 sets its satirical aim on the 24/7 news cycle, a fat and deserving target if ever there was one.  Anymore it seems as though Sidney Lumet’s NETWORK is being referenced as a how-to guide for ratings chasing above all than understood as a denouncement of it.  The absurd content that Ron and team favor to fill their news hole permits ANCHORMAN 2 to make its points humorously and effectively that the public gets the news it deserves when it chooses to reward bottom of the barrel reporting.  Ferrell and McKay aren’t letting the information gatekeepers off the hook, but their serious message couched in silly jokes is that infotainment and manufactured outrage are not in the best interest of viewers.

Although media criticism provides weight to ANCHORMAN 2, the escalation of jokes, obvious and obscure referential humor, and sheer number of oddball gags ensure that the film doesn’t forget that its primary purpose is to amuse.  Its hit-to-miss ratio can seem inconsistent, but that’s only because so much is thrown out there to determine what plays.  Ferrell has his share of duds on his filmography, a fact that holds true for anyone who works as often as he does and takes so many risks as an actor, screenwriter, and producer.  Nevertheless, as reflected in his overall body of work and ANCHORMAN 2, his comedic instincts are correct enough to make him worth trusting more than his contemporaries.

Grade: B

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