The satire holds up ten years later in revisiting the long overdue 2013 Anchorman sequel, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
Nine years was a very long time to wait for the Channel 4 News Team to reunite but it was worth it. The first film became such a quotable classic that they had to wait for the right story to come together. When it comes to any sequel, filmmakers know that they cannot screw it up. How do you improve on the first film while changing up the formula in the process? It’s a tall order for anyone, let alone the likes of Adam McKay and Will Ferrell. The other problem in the delay was waiting to get the greenlight from Paramount Pictures. In any event, I patiently waited for the release date to arrive in 2013 once it was finally announced. When it finally arrived, I laughed my tuchas off as I expected I would.
While it was nine years in the real world, the film itself took place only seven years after the events of the first film. Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are working as co-anchors for WBC. Both of them are in line for one of the primetime evening news anchor positions. Getting the anchor seat would be huge for anyone of them. In any event, WBC news anchor Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford) announces to Ron and Veronica that he is retiring. What comes next is what sets things in motion: Veronica is Mack’s successor and Ron loses his job. Six months later, Ron is separated and not staying classy while working as an MC at SeaWorld in San Diego.
After a suicide attempt goes badly wrong (as it would in a comedy film), producer Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker) offers Ron with a job he cannot refuse: reading the news again. This time around, it would be as an anchorman for Kench Allenby’s (Josh Lawson) new network, GNN, in New York City. Ron laughs off the opportunity because he doesn’t think a 24/7 news network would work.
In rounding up the Channel 4 News Team for their new gig, we see what everyone is up to. Not gonna lie, I’m very disappointed that sports guy Champ Kind (David Koechner) is an antisemite, racist, and homophobic. Man on the street Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) is working in as a cat photographer. Meanwhile, weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) faked his death. New boss Linda Jackson (Meagan Good) quickly challenges Ron and puts him in his place. She fires him not long afterwards only to bring him back when she learns his 2 AM stunt brought in ratings. Anyway, Ron has something of a rival in GNN primetime news anchor Jack Lime (James Marsden). Meanwhile, Brick meets the quirky and equally clueless Chani (Kristen Wiig) and they become love interests.
One of the more interesting choices is to have Ron Burgundy lose his vision during a fight. He eventually gets it back but for a while, he’s sitting at rock bottom even though it brought his family back together. When he learns that an operation might be able to restore his vision, it’s back to business as usual. Well, except for the rivalry with Jack and Ron realizing he wanted to be a better father. He goes full Howard Beale in a way as he delivers a mic drop on camera.
Burgundy going to GNN is either the best decision or worst thing ever. This is the anchorman who is going to change how news works as we know it. For better or worse, he also makes a bet over ratings. Ron is betting on people watching news about what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear. It speaks to what was wrong with the news landscape back a decade ago and I can make the same argument in 2023. But anyway, this story is what brought the cast back because it is the storytelling in as much as the satire.
McKay and company do an amazing job at satirizing the saturation of cable news and what they’ll do to get ratings. It’s exactly what I would expect McKay to do, albeit through the lens of the misogynist that is Ron Burgundy. We saw how sexist he was when Veronica was hired so it’s not surprising to see a little bit of racism in his first encounter with Linda Jackson. While a lot of cable news stations now air encores overnight, Ron and the team were handling the 2-5 AM shift. They did what they do best–through improv magic, of course–and brought in ratings. Finding a way to say what they want to say about the cable news landscape and inject it into the film is where the magic comes through in the writing. Do you push it hard or just make it ever so subtle?
When we talk about the satire, there are moments in the film calling back to Ferrell’s days working at SNL. I would think that Adam McKay had that sketch in mind while working on the script. In any event, the bit in question is where Ron is on screen and graphics are all over the place. It’s so funny because it makes things next to impossible to see Burgundy on screen.
An Anchorman film trademark is a fight between news teams. There’s only one way to make this work and that’s by going bigger, better, and epic. How do you improve on the 2004 fight? They bring in bigger names and did not disappoint. One of those cameos did not age well when you factor how antisemitic that person got. In any event, the fight really depicts the saturation in news all these years later. We have sports, entertainment, history, music, and even Canadians. Naturally, the Canadians are always apologizing. I love how there’s a Bruce Almighty reunion in the process!
Not surprisingly, this is a film that’s been cast with talented improvisers. In addition to the words on Ferrell and McKay’s script, there are a number of improvised lines. It’s so much that many of them do not make it into the film! Hell, the home release contains 90 minutes of deleted, extended, and alternate scenes. Beyond that, there’s the Super-Sized R-Rated version with 763 new jokes! Give some credit to McKay and film editors Brent White and Melissa Bretherton in narrowing Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues down from a 4-5 hour cut to the final 2-hour run time. I do not envy their position. Not at all.
One of the initial ideas was to make Anchorman 2 as a musical and working out the jokes Marx Brothers-style as a stage musical for six months. The Book of Mormon happened and this put the hammer down on that idea. However, they retained the roots with an original song that ended up being cut from the initial film. One hates to see something cut in which so much work is involved in creating it but the song is lives on in the Super-Sized R-Rated version.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues might not be as quotable as its predecessor but the comedy is still a solid film in how it lampoons the world of cable news. How things have and have not changed.
DIRECTOR: Adam McKay
SCREENWRITERS: Will Ferrell & Adam McKay
CAST: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Dylan Baker, Meagan Good, James Marsden, Fred Willard, and Kristen Wiig, Josh Lawson, Chris Parnell
Paramount released Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues in theaters on December 18, 2013. Grade: 4/5
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