With unforgettable quotes like: “I love lamp,” “60% of the time, it works every time,” and “I’m in a glass case of emotion,” Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) set the bar ridiculously high for the recent sequel Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. When I first saw the teaser trailer last year, I was filled with mixed emotions. I wanted to see Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and the old Channel 4 News Team back together, but I was so certain that they would ruin a classic. The gimmicky early marketing campaigns for Anchorman 2 (Ben & Jerry’s “Scotchy Scotch Scotch” flavor, Ron co-anchoring a local CBS newscast, Ron’s ESPN interview with Peyton Manning) were entertaining but did not alleviate my concerns that Will Ferrell would be saying, “I immediately regret this decision” after opening weekend. How “by the beard of Zeus” could director Adam McKay and Ferrell come up with anything more absurd and hilarious than Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy?
The sequel picks up several years after the happily-ever-after ending of the first film. Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are married and have a son named Walter (Judah Nelson). Ron and Veronica are briefly both co-anchors at WBC News until Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford) promotes Veronica to be the first female nightly news anchor and fires Ron for being the worst news anchor he has ever seen. Consequently, Ron spirals to rock bottom in a fashion similar to Ron’s meltdown in the first movie. He leaves Veronica and his son, is unable to hold any jobs due to his alcoholism and depression, and even manages to massively fail at committing suicide. Of course, Ron doesn’t hesitate to make a joke, even when it comes to the sensitive topic of suicide: “Suicide makes you hungry. I don’t care what anybody says.”
Before Ron could do more harm to himself, an agent from GNN (Global News Network)—a satirical amalgamation of CNN and Fox News—tries to recruit him for the world’s first 24-hour cable news network. Like a Shakespearean fool, Ron makes the dumb, yet exceptionally insightful statement that “this is the stupidest idea ever.” After being offered an envelope full of money, Ron takes the job under the condition that he can bring his old news team with him back to New York City. Ron first finds Champ Kind (David Koechner), who has opened a “fried chicken” restaurant, which actually sells “chicken of the cave” (fried bats). Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) is portrayed to be a pornography photographer but turns out to be a world famous pussycat photographer. Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) is presumed dead, yet appears at his own funeral to everyone’s surprise—including his own.
After the team is reassembled, Ron stumbles upon the idea that news networks should give viewers what they want to hear and not what they need to hear. Armed with this tidbit from Pandora’s box, Ron’s meteoric rise to the top is unstoppable. With coverage of high-speed car chases, split-screen graphics, and sensationalist “news,” Ron Burgundy forever revolutionizes and transforms the news into the crap we see on television today. But unfortunately for Ron, the faster you rise, the greater you fall—quite literally.
While Anchorman 2 may not be as quotable as its predecessor and has a loose storyline that grows from crazy to what Brick’s brain must be like, it is still densely packed with classic non sequitur jokes and remains, at its core, hilarious. Brick does not have many lines in the film (you can’t blame someone who has “an IQ of 48”), but he is undoubtedly the thunder that keeps the laughs rolling in. The chemistry between Brick and Chani (Kirsten Wiig), a GNN secretary, is disturbingly electric. The awkward relationship between the two is not only hysterical but wonderfully captures the essence of love: love is something magical between two people and often inexplicable to others. Of course, their first date is getting a drink at a vending machine in a Laundromat. And only Brick would break the ice with “I can always guess how many jellybeans are in a jellybean jar, even if I’m wrong.” Chani also had her fair share of amusing one-liners: “I like the parts of your face that are covered with skin.” The two were clearly meant for one another.
Although some lines from Anchorman 2, like “Blaaaaaack” and “Is that your foot between my legs? Oh sorry, it was my hand,” are quite memorable, they do not live up to the canonical generation of “I love lamp” quotes. Even the spoofs of key scenes from the first Anchorman movie seem to fall flat. Brian’s secret cabinet of condoms, or more accurately anti-contraceptives, instead of exotic colognes like “Sex Panther,” certainly drew out some big laughs, but the reprisal of the jazz-flute performance, Baxter’s fight with the shark, and the news team brawl were just too much. Like the first time, I was amazed by all of the cameos in the brawl, but the novelty of these scenes had long worn off.
What distinguishes this movie from its more polished, albeit less substantive, antecedent is the growth of Ron Burgundy’s character and the presence of some meaningful themes: in particular, the significance of family and the degeneration of the news media. After Ron’s fall from grace, he surprisingly re-emerges a changed man. Don’t get me wrong, he is still idiotic enough to want to play with sharks. But he spends time with his family and learns the importance of keeping promises to his son. And even he is able to see through the BS in the news that nowadays so many of us fail to see.
If you are going in to the sequel expecting it to be as perfectly crafted, with exactly the same scotch flavor, as Anchorman, prepare to be disappointed. You will find that not only has the news changed with the times but so has Ron Burgundy. Yet, he still manages to stay classy.
As a friend of mine once told me, “When in Rome.”
Zinan Zhang is a senior in the Chemistry Department.