Will Ferrell and his crew beat the sophomore slump with just the right mix of stuff we want to see again (yes, there will be jazz flute, a rumble with the other news teams featuring wildly improbable surprise guest stars and weapons, and a clueless character being yanked into a new understanding of women) and stuff that’s new (some surprisingly sharp satire about the current state of the news business and its origins in the shift to the 24 hour news cycle in the 80’s — and a twist on the infamous closet of potent man-scents featuring Sex Panther).
The first obligation of a sequel is to undo everything that happened in part one. Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), married, with a son, and sharing the anchoring duties in San Diego, find their happily ever after ending torn asunder when their boss (the first of several surprise guest stars) promotes her to a network job and fires him as local anchor. He tries working as an announcer at Sea World, and is soon on the brink of losing that job, too. Ron Burgundy was put on this earth to “have salon-quality hair and read the news.” What can he do next?
Something happens that no one could have anticipated. A zillionaire (think cross between Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch) gets the idea for a 24 hour news channel. And that means they’ll hire anyone. Soon, Ron gets the band back together (Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, and David Koechner) and they’re on their way to two crazy destinations: New York and the 80’s.
“Anchorman” was not a huge hit when it was first released, but it has become, well, kind of a big deal, since it came out (especially unrated) on DVD. It is one of those films that improves on repeated viewing, not because there are subtle jokes you miss the first time around but because its silly but good-natured humor make it particularly suitable for repeated viewings with friends reciting the catch phrases and acting out the goofiest bits. That primes the audience for this next one, with a lot of silly, over-the-top comedy and “what were we thinking”-music, personalities, and styles of the era as in the first film. (The terrific soundtrack includes classics like “Ride With the Wind,” “Muskrat Love,” “Feels so Good,” and “This is It.”)
In the original, the set-up was having the smug, macho world of the local anchors was invaded by a woman — and one who was vastly more intelligent and professional than they were. This time, there is a woman who is not a subordinate or a peer; Ron Burgundy and his team have a new boss, Linda Jackson (Meagan Good). She is not only a woman; she is black. This provokes a whole extra layer of fear and fascination in Ron Burgundy.
Another difference — he is not the alpha male at the new station. His team goes on the air in the middle of the night. Prime time goes to the handsome and arrogant Jack Lime (James Marsden). Ron rashly bets Jack that he will beat him in the ratings.
The sneaky genius of this movie is the way it makes sense out of Ron’s kind of genius response to this idiotic bet, and the way it explains pretty much everything that’s gone wrong with the world ever since. It turns out that the sense of superiority that keeps us laughing at Ron Burgundy may be overshadowed by his sense of superiority in laughing at us.
Parents should know that this film has very raunchy and explicit humor for a PG-13, with a lot of crude jokes and strong language, including bigotry humor. Characters drink and use drugs and there is comic but graphic violence including a suicide attempt. NOTE that there are alternate versions available including a much raunchier unrated version.
Family discussion: Why was Ron so afraid of Linda? Who should own the news?
If you like this, try: the original “Anchorman”