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New film: Anchorman 2 – The Legend Continues

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Directed by Adam McKay

Over nine years since the original, this was the sequel that never looked like it would never happen. Indeed, at various times, major players announced that it wouldn’t. One of the primary problems being the cast and the likelihood of them all being both available and affordable at any given point in time. But more about the cast later….

There’s something vaguely brilliant about spoofing lowest common denominator news shows through the use of a lowest common denominator movie. And when legendary (in his own mind) anchorman Ron Burgundy becomes (in the film) the first news reporter to provide inane commentary on a televised high speed car chase, the result is the same in the movie as in the clip – you can’t look away even though you know you probably should.

This is that kind of movie in general, the jokes are lame (there’s even a lame running joke about the word lame) and many are heavily set up (there’s another set up joke that’s a joke about setting up jokes) – but it’s also so obviously self-aware of the stupidity on display that we’re being asked to laugh along with that stupidity rather than laugh at it. And that largely makes it work on that level. The awkward moments punctuate genuinely funny moments and both keep coming in abundance.

At its core, it’s really a very smart premise – to provide commentary on today’s news media, and the transition from information to entertainment, as though it could only have come from the mind of a complete idiot. Burgundy and his former news team reunite to staff the graveyard shift at the first 24 hour cable news channel – and faced with that prospect and the quest for ratings, they immediately throw integrity out the window. It’s like the last 20 years of the decline of television news reporting compressed into one programming meeting.

Along the way, the film is littered with politically incorrect humor – but that was to be expected. Re-teamed with Burgundy (Will Ferrell) are lothario investigative reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), clueless-about-sports sports reporter and homophobic apparently closeted homosexual Champ Kind (David Koechner), and intellectually challenged weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell). But, again, they’re the central team and they’re protective of each other and so the tactless humor is less mean spirited than if it was aimed at secondary or background characters.

In addition to the core group, which also includes Christina Applegate as Burgundy’s long suffering wife and erstwhile competitor Veronica Cornerstone, there’s a phenomenal set of cameos from other significant actors. This was true of the original, but the stakes are upped here and it’s really more fun to let them be a surprise than to list them all here. Suffice it to say that early appearances by Harrison Ford and Kristin Wiig are but the tip of the iceberg compared to what comes later. And while it’s clearly stunt casting for stunt casting effect, it’s still chipping away at the central joke about the nature of news.

The overall result is a film that’s messy and at times (a great many times) sophomoric, but which also manages to be genuinely funny, often in those same moments. But it’s at its funniest when it’s making fun of cable news shows and, let’s face it, they had it coming.

About the author

Tony Sheppard

Tony is a Professor at Sacramento State, Co-Director of the Sacramento Film & Music Festival and a long-time writer, primarily on topics related to film and the film industry. He is an active supporter of the local arts community, an amateur photographer, and has an interest in architecture and urban planning topics. He is currently designing a 595 sq.ft. house on a very small infill lot in Sacramento.

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