Big Mustaches and Big Laughs: “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” Review

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues gives us the long-awaited return of Ron Burgundy in a movie that is nearly identical to the first in everything except size, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The frightfully extensive marketing campaign for the movie is perhaps the greatest ever conceived. Burgundy has made appearances on various talk shows, announced awards, and even starred in commercials, along with the typical release of teasers and full movie trailers. Heck, on December 3, Emerson College even renamed its school of communications after him!

Click here for a nice little news report highlighting the major marketing items.

So how was the sequel?

Let me just say that the Anchorman franchise thrives on a kind of humor that is a collision of the idiotic with the hysterically outrageous. Everything about this movie is “BIG!”: the hair, the mustaches, the strength of cologne, even the inevitable super-sized return of the ensemble news network mega-brawl. The humor tries to be obnoxious and offensive, relying on that ridiculousness to achieve laughs, but the fact remains that there are smart people behind the scenes pulling it all together. And you will laugh, a ton, regardless of how offended you think you should be. The snobbish side of me kind of wanted to hate this movie, if only to advocate for the many women and people of color that fall victim to Burgundy idiocies, but the goofier side to my personality won out and I couldn’t help but enjoy the ride that Ron Burgundy took me on.

The ’70s are behind him. In 1980 Ron Burgundy does the news on a major network based out of New York City, working for his idol Mack Harken (Harrison Ford) and broadcasting alongside his wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). But when Ron is fired and Veronica given a promotion, our treasured Anchorman leaves his wife out of spite and begins a drunken rampage working for Sea World and badmouthing dolphins. Soon enough, he is approached with a job offer working for the first 24-hour news network, Global News Network (GNN) based out of New York City (this quite obviously is meant to mirror CNN’s launch back in 1980, backed by Ted Turner). GNN is owned by an Australian millionaire that is – yet another – obvious allusion to the real-life Virgin mogul Richard Branson.

One of the most interesting things about Anchorman 2 is how well-thought out it is with regards to the actual history of the journalism industry. To make a long, rival-driven story short, I’ll say that while at GNN, Ron decides on a dickish whim to change the news and give “the people” what they “want” to see rather than the traditional format of providing what the public needs to know. What this amounts to is a rather compelling commentary on how preoccupied modern America is with things like car chases and cat videos. I don’t know enough about the developments in journalism that happened in the 1980s, but in the alternate history of Ron Burgundy, the focus became on news that attracted viewership rather than inform them.

baxterOver time, Ron has his predictable rise and fall from grace, only to be blessedly renewed once again by the adorable pooch Baxter. Reviving his failing marriage with Veronica becomes a priority, as does fixing Ron’s relationship with his comedically awkward 7-year-old son, Howard. These developments feel cheap and shallow, however, when compared to Ron’s exhilarating newsroom rivalry with Jack Lime (James Marsden) or his tension with best friend Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd). Fantana puts pressure on Ron when he needs it whereas the other two parts to their foursome – Brick (Steve Carrell) and Champ (David Coechner) – are largely one-note fillers that we’ve all come to appreciate.

Another interesting conflict that arises in Anchorman 2 happens when Fantana wants to run a story about airplanes malfunctioning, a story that just so happens to make the GNN owner look very, very bad. They have a responsibility to do the news, but they aren’t allowed to run the story. So Anchorman 2 winds up asking that very potent question: what happens when the rich people with power are the ones who own the news? It’s a shockingly important question of timeless relevance since we’ve entered the digital age. When journalism focuses on profit, what happens to the integrity of the profession?

Despite wetting its feet in these provocative questions, Anchorman 2 gets no closer to grappling with the issues than the first movie did in tackling feminism and women in the workplace. Treatment of these issues is tangential at best and glaringly offensive at worst. Especially when Ron begins having a sexual relationship with his powerful, black, female, extremely over-sexualized and domineering boss, things get way out of hand. After a date and a half, she brings Ron home to meet her family, and he makes an utter fool of himself blubbering about in what I can only describe as idiotic jive talk. The family is offended (obviously) but every viewer should be as well. It made me feel uncomfortable, and it got me thinking. There’s a fine line between satirizing and glorifying it, and there are times when I’m just not quite sure which Anchorman 2 is attempting.

Where should the line be drawn in the sands of comedy to let us know how much is too much? If movies were people, then Anchorman 2 would be the offensive drunk uncle who presents compelling ideas but never follows through with them, preferring instead to shout, womanize, and entertain, but ultimately, disappoint just a little bit. Because Anchorman 2 inches towards being something so much more, but it never takes that step, preferring instead to stay within the realm of comfortably marketable.

I’ve already said more than I had wanted to, but when all is said and done, Anchorman 2 was terrific to watch, even if I might have wanted something more.

If you enjoyed the first Anchorman, then rest assured, you will like this one just as much, if not more. Some of the same faults of the first are there, like a glorification of sexism, racism, and plenty of other offenses. But at least there’s always Brick. Thank god for Brick.

Note: The grand news team brawl close to the finale is worth the price of admission alone, with cameos ranging far and wide. Oh, and there’s a minotaur. If that doesn’t convince you to see it, I don’t know what else will.