Combustible Celluloid
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With: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Kristen Wiig, James Marsden, Meagan Good, Harrison Ford, Dylan Baker, Greg Kinnear, Josh Lawson
Written by: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay
Directed by: Adam McKay
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, drug use, language and comic violence
Running Time: 119
Date: 12/18/2013

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Kissing Sharks

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

December is usually full of "issue" movies that discuss serious, important topics ranging from divorce and whales to the environment and more. (This year we have AIDS, slavery, and war.) The elephant in the room this December, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues understands that the best way to discuss an issue is to make it funny.

The genius of this movie comes when the filmmakers, writer/director Adam McKay and writer/actor Will Ferrell, take their 1970s anchorman hero Ron Burgundy (played by Ferrell) into the early 1980s and the dawn of 24-hour cable news. It would take someone as appealingly superficial as Burgundy to help turn the news from actual reporting into entertainment by focusing on things like how great America is or car chases in progress.

As the movie begins, Ron and his wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are happy co-anchors -- until the big boss, Mack Harken (Harrison Ford), promotes Veronica and fires Ron. Ron can't handle the injustice of it, and breaks up his marriage as well.

Unemployed and miserable, Ron's life changes when he is approached to work at launch of a new 24-hour cable news network, GNN. He must assemble the old team -- and in a great parody of all those "assemble the team" sequences -- he does just that. He finds Champ Kind (David Koechner) running a chicken restaurant, which actually serves fried bats. Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) has become a successful cat photographer. They learn that Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) is dead, until they attend his funeral and find that Brick himself is one of the speakers.

There are quite a few subplots involving the new job. Ron clashes with the far more successful and handsome Jack Lime (James Marsden), has an affair with his boss, Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), and fights with his crew. Brick falls in love with an equally odd secretary, Chani (Kristen Wiig). Ron loses custody of his son, fights with his wife's new lover, goes blind, and kisses a shark (don't ask). There's another rumble, a tough decision, and a race against time. Director McKay has called his comedy "epic," and he's not too far off.

The movie has two kinds of humor and they both work well. The first is the aforementioned commentary on the state of the news. The movie handles it cheerfully, clashing stupidity with sensibility and letting the audience in on the joke. Next, we have Ferrell and McKay's uniquely odd humor, which relies so much on rhythms and sounds than on actual jokes. Case in point: Ron's strange declarations ("life is not all skipping rope and grabbing ass!" or "by the hymen of Olivia Newton-John!" or "by the bedpan of Gene Rayburn!").

The movie's visual gags work along the same lines as the verbal ones; they're just slightly off-kilter and mismatched, such as Ron keeping scorpions, a deep-fryer and bowling balls in his RV, or trying to pretend that a lacy negligee is actually a present for his son and not for his ex-wife. (The boy thinks it's a superhero costume.) The cameos work in much the same way, by matching (and clashing) certain personalities with certain TV networks.

The movie does lack the freshness of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), which is to be expected, but it's remarkably consistent, clever and well-paced for such a long movie. Ferrell and McKay are to be commended for keeping things on track, and keeping the laughs coming all the way up to the final moments. It won't win any awards, but it's a great alternative for those movies that will.

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