It’s been 10 years since comedian Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay teamed up to create
Anchorman, a farcical comedy set in 1970’s San Diego, that profiled a fictitious newsman named Ron Burgundy. The original film wasn’t a box office hit, but since its release in 2004 it has garnered enough fans to merit a sequel, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. While the film sporadically references events from the first movie, viewers who haven’t seen the original Anchorman will still be able to enjoy the sequel.
Anchorman 2 takes place in the 1980s, as 24-hour news stations are starting to pop up across America. Burgundy and his three fellow newsmen (played by Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner) are hired to host the launch of one such channel, but find it’s not everything they expected it to be.
Will Ferrell has stated that Ron Burgundy is his favorite of all the characters he has played, and his enthusiasm for the project is a large part of what makes Anchorman 2 a success. In a lesser actor’s hands, it’s easy to imagine Burgundy as a caricature of cringeworthy behavior and dated political views. Ferrell’s performance is very funny, but it also uncovers a cache of hidden humanity in the character that makes him likeable even when he’s engaged in indefensible behavior (which he almost always is).
Part of the reason Will Ferrell is hysterical is that he’s bolstered by an impressive supporting cast. Of the four friends, Ferrell’s Burgundy and Steve Carell’s Brick are the most consistently amusing. Paul Rudd’s self-proclaimed ladies man is such a sleaze he’s a little unbearable, and David Koechner’s nasty sports commentator is annoying at best. Carell’s character, on the other hand, is the most brain-dead of the lot (a significant achievement) , but he’s also the one with the sweetest soul, which makes his antics endearing.
Anchorman 2 is first and foremost a comedy, but it has a clever plot about how corrupt journalists inflate and invent news stories, and how contemporary news stations prioritize entertaining audiences over informing them. The film slyly suggests that Burgundy’s buffoonery isn’t too far from what occurs in modern journalism. It’s an enlightened message that nicely compliments the more absurd elements of the film.
Realizing that most people don’t come to a movie like Anchorman 2 expecting to be preached at, Ferrell and McKay keep the plot secondary to the comedic antics. Anchorman 2 isn’t constantly funny, but enough of its jokes land to make up for the occasional misfires.