The Steve Miller Band’s 1977 hit “Jet Airliner” blares over the closing credits to “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” but an old American muscle car might be a better metaphor for Will Ferrell’s return to the polyester suit and coiffed hair of Ron Burgundy: exhilarating in the straight-aways, horrifying in the corners, and loud enough to offend all but the most loyal of gear heads. All while pumping enough pollution into the air to suffocate us all.
Fans of the first “Anchorman” film have been waiting almost a decade for a sequel, and if “Anchorman 2” does one thing, it pleases that fan base. But “Anchorman 2” doesn’t just do one thing. It does many. It will please its old fans, cranking out quotable one-liners like it’s in a competition. It will probably offend anyone expecting a typical PG-13-level comedy. It will appeal to anyone who thinks 1970s wardrobes are hilarious, and even chums the water for fans of “Shark Week.”
The formula for this film seems to be to take Ferrell’s character and inject him into as many absurd situations as possible, stringing together the results like an old episode of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” (only because “Saturday Night Live” never had theme episodes). Somewhere in the middle of all this there is a message about the tragic state of modern journalism. Not that “Anchorman 2” is too preoccupied with evangelism, or story. This is a film that knows its bread and butter and stuffs its audience full of it for a full 119 minutes.
When we catch up with Mr. Burgundy, he and his former rival/now wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are in New York City on the verge of making the big time as network anchors. But when the call comes (from the first of many surprise celebrity cameos), Veronica gets the nod and Burgundy gets the can. By the time his career dust settles, Burgundy gets an offer to anchor the 2-5 a.m. block of GNN (Global News Network) the world’s first 24-hour news station.
This new position ushers in a barrage of comic plots and subplots: There’s a rivalry with a pretty-boy up-and-comer named Jack Lime (James Marsden). There’s sexual and racial tension with his new boss, an African-American woman named Linda Jackson (Meagan Good). There’s a none-too-subtle swipe at Fox News and cable news in general when Burgundy and Co. boost their ratings with a heavy dose of patriotism, puppy stories and live car chase coverage.
Did I also mention that Burgundy has a son who is apparently a piano prodigy?
It doesn’t really matter. None of the plots in “Anchorman 2” matter. It’s all fodder for Ferrell, and to his credit, he delivers at the peak of his powers. All you have to do is decide how you feel about that peak. Ron Burgundy might be the most iconic of Ferrell’s many characters, but many may find him an acquired taste.
Yet “Anchorman 2” is far from a re-hash of its predecessor. It goes out of its way to pay homage to the roots from which it sprang.
It’s also interesting to note the increased focus on Steve Carell’s Brick Tamland character. Carell’s supporting turn in the first film came before his success on TV’s “The Office,” but in the post-Michael Scott era, he gets enough screen time this go-around to make you wonder if a spinoff franchise could be a possibility. (Incidentally, that would probably be a horrible idea. A little Brick goes a long way. His subplot romance with a zany secretary played by Kristen Wiig is pretty funny, though.)
Bottom line: there are a lot better movies to see in the theater this Christmas season, but if you can take the chaos, the carnage and the rampant vulgarity, few will deliver as many laughs. For all its faults, “Anchorman 2” manages to hit its funny mark.
“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” pushes the limits of its PG-13 rating with enough comic violence, vulgarity, profanity (one use of the “F-word”) and sexual innuendo/content to offend pretty much every possible sensitivity. Yet it’s hard to point to any one moment in the film and insist it crossed the line into R-rated territory. “Anchorman 2” may be a fantastic example for anyone frustrated with the ambiguity of the modern rating system.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. You can see more of his work at woundedmosquito.com.