Knights of Columbus! The news team return in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues after nine long years away. In keeping with the lengthy delay, this time it's the 80s; the hair is bigger, the music is arguably better and audiences of America are getting noticeably dumber. Can the second film be as instantly quotable as its predecessor?
Ron and Veronica are now married with an angelic little boy named Walter and co-anchoring the news from New York. Harrison Ford (in the first of one of many starry cameos) wades in as the station boss, quickly giving Burgundy the boot and Veronica a promotion. Six months later Burgundy has walked out on his family and is sozzled and suicidal at SeaWorld but soon called back into service by new 24 hour news channel GNN. Getting the old team of Champ, Brian and Brick back together is easy, but competing with the younger and better looking news teams at GNN is the tricky part.
In Anchorman 2, Burgundy, like Will Ferrell, is stuck in the good old glory days of the past and sadly often resorts to repeating himself. Scenes where he entertains kids while drunk, or ice skates suspiciously majestically or wrestles with vicious animals all feel familiar from previous Ferrell films. Anchorman 2 doesn't completely repeat everything that made the first film a success but it certainly doesn't feel as fresh as its predecessor. The anarchic delight of throwing any surreal improvised gag at the screen produces plenty of laughs but there are also plenty of lazy scraping the bottom of the barrel jokes.
While being incredibly silly, Anchorman 2 also dabbles with having something to say. With 24 hour news being the new name of the game and Ron desperate to gain bigger ratings than his new rival Jack Lime (a scene stealing James Marsden), the content of the show gets cruder, stupider and pointedly patriotic. Kittens, crack and car chases are the order of the day with Ron pushing the boundaries of what can be called broadcast journalism and helping to dumb down the entire nation Fox News style. The news team talk down to their audience and the flag waving patriots lap it up.
Anchorman 2 is actually best when critiquing the decline of the news, parodying its graphics, stupidity and endless sensationalism, but on the other hand spends too much time in thrall to its idiotic central star.
Burgundy has a developing relationship with his young son, an extended period of blindness and isolation in a lighthouse and as a result the rest of the news team feel short changed. Burgundy's blundering ways with his African American boss (who inexplicably becomes his lady friend) and her family might give some good, if painfully obvious laughs, but the journey of Ron from selfish buffoon to responsible father detracts from the rest of the news team. Paul Rudd and David Koechner are underused and while Steve Carrell's loveable moron Brick gets a brilliantly silly subplot involving love interest Kristen Wiig, this is still very much the legend of Ron Burgundy, not the entire news team.
With Burgundy backed up by a supporting cast of crazy characters and cameos this good, it is a shame to waste so many moments on the pompous ass that is Ron Burgundy. If the legend continues in a 90s set threequel, more of Brick, Fantana and Champ and a little less Burgundy might not go astray.