There are many who describe the movie ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY (2004) as one of the most quotable comedies ever made. These people then spend the rest of the evening disproving their theory by drinking heavily and doing increasingly slurred renditions of their favourite scenes, heavy with the phrases, “I love lamp,” “You stay classy San Diego” and “I’m kind of a big deal.” It’s happened to a friend of mine several times.
What these people lack is the comic talent and knack for stupid humour that is possessed by Anchorman star Will Ferrell and the team behind the original and its sequel ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES. To recap, the first movie was set in the 1970s and nominally about the battle of the sexes in the news department of a San Diego television station. The joke was the ridiculous machismo levels of the Channel 4 news guys led by self-impressed, blow-waved newsreader Ron Burgundy (Ferrell). His opponent was the very much smarter Veronica Corningstone (Applegate).
Now, it’s the 1980s, Corningstone and Burgundy are married, have a son called Walt and are living large in New York City. As the movie begins, Veronica is promoted to replace news legend Mack Harken and in a fit of pique Burgundy resigns feeling he has been passed over. He also separates from Veronica. Things look bleak for Ron, however, as always, he is backed up by his old Channel 4 news team buddies Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Brick Tamland (Steve Carrell) and Champ Kind (Dave Koechner).
The quartet get involved in GNN, the first ever 24 hour news channel. The organisation is the brainchild of brash Aussie airline millionaire Kench Allenby (Josh Lawson). GNN executive vice president is Linda Jackson (Meagan Good). Ron is surprised to discover she is a tough talking African American woman. He reacts even more cluelessly than usual. GNN’s star newsman is Jack Lime (James Marsden). Ron is intimidated by Lime’s amazing looks. Burgundy is off to a rocky start.
The movie moves along quickly from set piece to set piece. The absurdity and surrealism is cranked up for the sequel. There are more amazing cameos than you poke a stick at. This reflects director Adam McKay’s desire to put together a collection of “the best day players ever”. Former Saturday Night Live comedians also feature strongly which is no surprise considering Ferrell and McKay are ex-SNL.
So is it as funny as the original? No. The word original is the key. The odd mixture of elements in the 2004 film was unexpectedly entertaining. In fact, Anchorman was a comparative slow burn at the box office earning only half of Ferrell’s previous film, the Christmas comedy ELF (2003). Anchorman built up a loyal following on DVD which is where its oft-quoted quotability probably comes from.
Ferrell and McKay are loathe to do sequels. They have said on many occasions that the impetus for this film came from fans and that Australians were at the forefront of this push. So there was a considerable amount of pressure to get it right. The movie is consistently funny with new ideas intertwined with the revisited gags such as the true thoughts of Burgundy’s beloved dog Baxter. Weirdly, the sequel even has a message smuggled into it about the way the 24 hour news cycle has changed the way we look at the world. It’s an unexpectedly serious undertone in an otherwise completely ridiculous movie. The only other notable element is the slightly awkward handling of the romantic subplot involving Linda Jackson and Ron Burgundy. McKay and Ferrell are trying to say something about race in America, they’re just not sure what.
If you enjoyed the first Anchorman, you are very, very likely to enjoy its sequel. The old gang is having fun, but are still on their game. The movie opens in Australia today. I give it a rating of 7/10.