By Caryn James | James on Screens December 18, 2013 at 12:30AM
Cable news, and CNN in particular, is already such a compromised, pandering mess that it seems beyond parody. Still, there is something hilarious in the idea that a journalistic doofus like Ron Burgundy -- all hair and over-enunciation -- was the first to float the concept that shaped 24-hour news as we know it today. The scene in which Ron arrives at that brilliant idea, surrounded by his old news team as they join a start-up cable channel called GNN (ha!) in 1980, is a perfect example of the goofy-smart humor of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Will Ferrell is totally invested in his character's idiocy when Ron complains: "Why do we have to tell the people what they need to hear?" Why not give them what they want? And of course the public wants pet videos, America-first tag lines ("Have an American night.") and car chases. Yes, Ron Burgundy was the guy who gave us televised car chases. Makes perfect sense now.
I have never not liked a Will Ferrell film; I'm not even sick of the endless Anchorman promotion, so take that into account when I say Anchorman 2 is extremely funny. Written by Ferrell and his usual writing and Funny or Die partner Adam McKay, who directed, it takes their typical silly-smart approach. They are not interested in pointed satire, but in ridiculous, ridiculously clever scenarios.
When Ron heads to New York and GNN, he recruits his old team
from San Diego and the original Anchorman,
including Paul Rudd as suave investigative reporter Brian Fantana, David
Koechner as Ron-obsessed sports reporter Champ Kind, and Steve Carell as Brick
Tamland, the weatherman of such limited intellect and common sense he weeps at
his own funeral and is surprised to hear he's not dead. You might predict one
of Ron's other cable innovations: let's put Brick out in the middle of a hurricane.
But no matter how many times you've seen the film's trailer, Carell makes you laugh
when Brick, wearing green pants that disappear into a green-screen background, looks
at the monitor, thinks he has lost his legs, and falls to the floor.
As Brian, Rudd has perfected the swagger of a guy who's totally self- confident -- way
out of proportion to his success. Champ is still a one-note joke, but nothing in
this fast-paced film stops long enough to be tiresome. The new over-the-top characters include the GNN
owner, Kench (Josh Lawson) an Australian who has is part Ted Turner, part Rupert
There is a slender plot, which is never the point in a
comedy like this. Separated from his more-successful wife, Veronica Corningstone
(Christina Applegate), Ron has to find his way emotionally, and learn to relate
to his 6-year-old son, Walter (Judah Nelson, who amazingly holds his own with
the comic grown-ups). It says a lot about the silliness of the film that the
most touching father-son moments involve raising a pet shark.
The original Anchorman
is now nine years old, with a cult following, so a sequel coming back after
that better have something special. Anchorman
2 has the most cameo-filled fight scene between battling news teams ever. It's
worth preserving the surprise, but
you'll be surprised at who shows up for MTV, at how polite the Canadian news team
is, at how charismatic the History Channel anchor turns out to be.
Anchorman 2 is so loony, such fun, you might forgive Ron for
creating cable news.