The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape
Send this page to Twitter!  

THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Anchorman 2

The Paramount logo began, with the Christopher Cross song "Ride Like the Wind" pumping on the soundtrack. I felt a sense of giddiness in those opening seconds of Anchorman 2. I awarded the original Anchorman three stars - a "good" rating. The film was imminently quotable, though, and one that I found myself often coming back to. In some ways, it defies the whole star rating system. Three stars acknowledges that Anchorman has a few narrative problems, but not the intensity with which I love it, regardless. For years, director Adam McKay publicly lamented the fact that he couldn't get a sequel off the ground, despite the film's immense popularity on DVD. Somehow, that situation turned around, and perhaps the time in development was well spent. Anchorman 2 takes everything that was good about the original and multiplies it, all while adding a more ambitious story. It's been a while since a movie made me laugh so loud, so hard, or so often.

We find Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) in 1980s New York City, where he and wife Veronica (Christina Applegate) are now working. The network president throws them a curveball by making Veronica the first female lead anchor and firing Ron. This takes a heavy toll on their marriage. Ron is soon wooed to be part of something brand new: an about-to-launch 24-hour news network. He initially scoffs at the idea, but then agrees to sign on, bringing his old team along. They are sports reporter Champ Kind (David Koechner), investigative reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), and hapless weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell). Once at the new network, he begins a rivalry with star anchor Jack Lime (James Marsden), a guy who intends to be the biggest fish in the pond. Ron's bright idea is to out-do Lime by making news "more fun" and to "give people what they want." His late-night slot becomes a haven for stories about America's greatness, cute animals, and any type of sordid thing he can dig up. It's an immediate hit. Meanwhile, love is in the air in the studio, as Ron begins an affair with his African-American boss, Linda Jackson (Meagan Good, a welcome addition), while Brick falls for daffy receptionist Chani (Kristen Wiig).

The first Anchorman was essentially just a silly concept that allowed Will Ferrell to display his patented talent for portraying deliriously egomaniacal characters. It poked fun at TV news in the '70s, but that was about it. Anchorman 2, on the other hand, puts the characters in an actual story, one with a pointed critique of what news has become. Ron inadvertently starts every bad trend of modern TV reporting: biased stories, a focus on the exploitative over the substantive, the elevation of minor incidents into national obsessions. As such, the film has an opportunity to comment on the ideas of news evolving into entertainment and, more importantly, corporate "synergy." The owner of the network, clearly inspired by Rupert Murdoch, is an airline tycoon who doesn't want anyone to report on things that might harm his other business. It's a problem when people own the news, Anchorman 2 says, because the public isn't getting what it needs so much as it's getting what someone decides to give it. The way the movie addresses such issues is admirable, especially since it's all dressed up in the requisite silliness Ron Burgundy fans have come to expect. Imagine a comedic version of Aaron Sorkin's HBO series The Newsroom and that's what this is.

Marrying a satiric commentary with intentionally silly humor is hard to do, but McKay, Ferrell, and company pull it off. Anchorman 2 is packed with jokes - some smart and sly, others cheerfully goofball. Many directly target news broadcasting, while plenty of them are here just to hit the funny bone. A scene in which Ron attends a family dinner with Linda is a comic highlight (he tries to assimilate by speaking in Ebonics), as is the payoff to a sequence set inside an RV. The stars are clearly having great fun with their roles. The energy of their performances is infectious, as they rattle off improvised lines and throw in little non sequiturs of comedy. There are new catchphrases aplenty ("By the hymen of Olivia Newton-John!" is my favorite) and delightful moments of weirdness that will ensure the movie holds up on repeat viewings. A dozen or so surprise cameos give Anchorman 2 an extra layer of fun.

Where the film might divide some people is in its ending. The last twenty minutes contain a highly conceptual set piece that goes to some truly bizarre and outrageous places. However, it is here that Anchorman 2 really shows its stuff. The scene creatively drives home its statement about what the 24-hour news cycle has wrought and the impact it has had on television in general. McKay and Ferrell (who wrote the script together) deserve credit for being willing to experiment so boldly. They could have played it safe with a more traditional comic finale. Instead, they take genuine risks.

Anchorman 2 is not just a sequel. It is an astute satire and an amazing piece of next-level comedy. When it was over, my mouth was sore from laughing so hard. By the beard of Zeus, this is the year's funniest film.

( out of four)

Anchorman 2 is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, drug use, language and comic violence. The running time is 1 hour and 59 minutes.

Buy a copy of my book, "Straight-Up Blatant: Musings From The Aisle Seat," on sale now at! Paperback and Kindle editions also available at!

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.