on December 18, 2013 - 2:46 PM
It’s the idea of Ron Burgundy that we all love so much. His introduction, the first “Anchorman,” wasn’t so hot. The idea was aces, though. We’d been waiting decades for it, in fact.
Ron Burgundy was the anchor buffoon we were waiting – and praying – for, i.e. a profound TV news idiot way beyond Ted Baxter of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” or that unfortunately located archetypal TV weasel “Buffalo Bill.” We needed a symbol of his whole benighted species – men and women who believe that anatomy is destiny and a perfect coiffure helps; creatures who believe all that emptiness between their ears gives everything they say an echo of pure profundity. That’s why they say so much, even though they have no idea what the devil they’re talking about.
They’re America’s most famous local buffoons from San Diego to Sag Harbor.
It will surprise no one that “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” started out with a great idea almost worth the absurd overpromotion we’ve been living with for weeks. And then it dissipated every bit of it with so much silliness that it ends with 10 minutes where silliness graduates to rank stupidity.
It’s certainly funny at times – occasionally even hilarious. But, as is so often the case with the movies of “Saturday Night Live” alumni, you’re going from joke to joke. Some are great. Some are memorable (and sickeningly quotable). And some aren’t even ready for the 10-year-old’s version of prime time. In the case of “Anchorman 2,” make that “many” jokes weren’t ready for prime time.
The genuinely great comic idea that Will Ferrell and his partner Adam McKay could have turned into an all-time satiric movie gem is this one: In this movie, ’70s TV news doofus Ron Burgundy and his San Diego team are reconvened after their incompetence and weirdness led to all-too-early forced retirement to become the new faces on a new notion someone with far too much money had – a 24-hour cable news channel.
So there they are. The boys are together again – the sexually ambivalent sports guy who would quit news for the fried chicken business (it isn’t chicken he serves, though, it’s deep-fried bats or, as he says, the “chicken of the cave.”); the randy reporter who is the sort to brag about giving STDs to Florence Henderson and is now photographing puppies; and the insane weather guy whose way of attempting suicide is to give the eulogy at his own funeral. Or, in the case of the latter two, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell, funny guys both.
Ron was fired from his New York job for too many obscenities, too many sneezes right into the camera lens and far too many on-camera comments like this to his co-anchor soon-to-be ex-wife “who the hell is Julius Caesar? You know I don’t follow the NBA.”
But the world, he thinks, needs him again. So to heck with his Sea World gig with the dolphins. This time, we’re going to make it, he vows., swearing, as is his wont, “by the hymen of Olivia Newton John.” (Insufferable quote alert, at your local tavern.)
An anchor stud named Jack Lime and his team are getting the prime-time stint on this new 24-hour news experiment. Ron and his idiots begin their graveyard shift at 2 a.m. Nevertheless, Ron makes a bet with the all-too-perfect Jack Lime (who, eerily, actually resembles Ch. 2’s all-time greatest hairdo anchor, the fabled Ron Hunter) that his ratings on the graveyard shift will trounce Lime’s in prime time. If they don’t, Ron says he’ll quit the business – again. If they do, Lime will have to permanently change his last name to Lame. Desperate times for Ron, in his quest to do what God put him on earth to do: “Have salon quality hair and read the news.”
And then comes Ron’s moronic flash of genius – and the idea the whole film could have played with in all manner of glorious variations. Said Ron, “I don’t know why we still tell people what they need to hear. Why don’t we just tell them what they want to hear?”
Out of the mouths of babes – or idiots. Pure genius. So they do.
The one moment that gives you the kind of genuine brilliance a bigger and more audacious team of writers might have concocted is this: When Ron is challenged again to assert his ratings manhood by his ex-wife’s interview across the dial with Yasser Arafat, he’s inspired suddenly, instead of reading boring old news, to follow “in real time” a car chase happening in Milwaukee.
When Arafat finds out his interview is going dark so that the network competing with Ron can go to it, too, he wants to watch the helicopter’s-eye-view of the car chase too.
A lot – a whole lot – more of that, I say, in “Anchorman 2” would have made it a semi-classic. But no, instead, you get a lot of wrong-footed narrative improv by Ferrell and McKay (sharks, temporary blindness etc.) ending with a grand park battle whose skull session before the actual shooting I wish we were seeing rather than the end result of all those nutty ideas flying around the room. It would have been fall-down hilarious to watch Ferrell and McKay come up with one scene of exploding cameos full of Stonewall Jackson, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Jim Carrey, Sacha Baron Cohen, Harrison Ford, Will Smith, the Greek Minotaur etc. etc. Each new idea must have killed them, I tell you, killed them.
On screen? Not so much. It’s the perfect exemplar of Ferrell’s entire movie career – the success of a guy who’s so much more lovable than he is funny that people love pretending he’s really funny too.
The IDEA of Ron Burgundy will never die because it was an idea that everyone in America desperately needed, inside the news business or outside it: THE anchor doofus to symbolize all the anchor doofuses in America, with their itty bitty brains, their splendid hair and more self-esteem per square inch than Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc, William Shakespeare and Johann Sebastian Bach could have managed COMBINED.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
2 1/2 stars (out of four)
Starring: Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Christina Applegate, Kristen Wiig
Director: Adam McKay
Running time: 119 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, drug use, language and comic violence.
The Lowdown: It’s 1980 and San Diego’s least respectable TV news team is in New York inventing 24-hour cable news. America will never be the same.