He’s reading local news in North Dakota. He’s interviewing Peyton Manning. He’s selling trucks. He’s sitting on a journalism panel at a (now slightly less) prestigious college. He’s…hosting a Canadian curling competition?! Dear God, Ron Burgundy is everywhere. I need to get some air. Wonder what the weather’s like outside…
This holiday season has been dominated by another man in a red suit. For months now, Burgundy, the aloof newsman Will Ferrell introduced in Adam McKay‘s cult hit Anchorman, has been at the center of a formidable marketing thrust with a singular goal: ensuring no humanoid denizen of Planet Earth remains ignorant of the fact that Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is now in theaters. While the campaign is being promosexually praised for its innovation, it’s also fouled up the long relationship it’s had with its core audience: plugged-in, pop-culture-savvy millennials who were high school- or college-age when the original came out and cemented its longevity with repeat DVD viewings and quotation sessions.
Released in 2004, Anchorman predates stuff like the iPhone, YouTube and Twitter — the precise tools the sequel team is exploiting to spread Burgundy’s mustachioed mug to every corner of the charted universe. (Facebook was technically launched a few months before the original’s release, but it didn’t expand nationally until much later.) It was a modest but unimpressive domestic and international box-office success at that time, but those figures had very little to do with the movie’s identity. Indispensable comics like Ferrell, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell were not nearly as ubiquitous back then, lending to a sort of we-knew-them-first staying power that adhered all those “stay classy,” “Sex Panther” and “I love lamp” catchphrases to the kinda-stoned zeitgeist.
Skip ahead nearly a decade, with the mugging faces of these well-established characters plastered across every TV screen and touch-sensitive device, and the non-stop trumpeting of The Legend Continues mostly comes off as a mildly amusing corporate-backed money grab. But that’s not to say it doesn’t have its riotous moments.
Relocated to New York City from a whale’s vagina San Diego, Burgundy and wife/co-anchor Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are both up to take over the evening chair from retiring anchor Mack Harken (Harrison Ford). When she gets the gig and he doesn’t, it splits up their marriage, sending Burgundy into a tailspin that rights itself when he gets an offer to join a fledgling 24-hour news network called “GNN.” Cue get-the-band-back-together montage, with Burgundy traveling around the country to wrangle drooling sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), horndog reporter Brian Fantana (Rudd) and brain-dead weatherman Brick Tamlin (Carrell). It’s these moments that come closest to nailing the original Anchorman appeal, which peters off considerably once the plot splinters into different storylines, like Burgundy’s rivalry with star anchor Jack Lime (James Marsden).
For all the teed-up easy jokes it emits, the script does have something interesting to say about the state of modern television news. “Why do we have to tell people what they need to hear?” ponders Burgundy, frustrated by the dullness of actual current events, in a production meeting. “Why can’t we just tell them what they want to hear?” This leads to his crew’s innovation of a vapid-bullshit approach to broadcasting that’s intellectually vegetative but oddly watchable — pretty much the same exact model employed on TV today. It’s an easy insight, sure, but it’s refreshing coming from a movie that’s being promoted on underpants.
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