After a publicity blitz that has seen Will Ferrell as his alter-ego Ron Burgundy pop up on a dozen television shows, including a real life news broadcast from KXMB in Bismarck, N.D., the big R finally opens on the big screen. Sequel to the 2004 cult classic, “Anchorman,” director Adam McKay, who helmed both films, has served up a generous helping of silliness and wit with all the usual suspects. But as usual it is Ferrell who carries the film.
When the story opens, it’s 1980 and Burgundy has made the big time in New York. Now a celebrated primetime news anchor alongside wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), the couple lives in lavish style with their young son Walter (Judah Nelson). Although Burgundy’s life seems perfect, the unexpected retirement of veteran news legend Mack Harken (Harrison Ford) initiates changes at the station and without so much as a thank you for your service, Burgundy finds himself out of a job. To make matters worse, Corningstone is promoted to lead anchor. Back in his hometown of San Diego, Burgundy’s come down gig as an announcer at Sea World goes badly awry. But he is saved from catastrophe by a job offer from a new start-up network GNN (read CNN), an all news, all the time experiment funded by an eccentric mega-millionaire (paging Ted Turner).
Seizing the opportunity to put the band back together, Burgundy goes on the road to recruit his old news team, Champ Kind (David Keochner), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), all of whom have moved on with their lives. Still they have happy memories of the good old days on the news desk and Burgundy manages to talk them into going back to New York for what turns out to be the deathwatch 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. slot. Another aspect of the job that Burgundy has to deal with is that his immediate boss Linda Jackson (Meagan Good) is both black and female. Burgundy wrestles openly and at times offensively with this news flash from the future, both exasperating and intriguing Ms. Jackson.
Ready to launch, GNN has laid on every top news anchor it can find including charismatic and irritating star of TV news, Jack Lime (James Marsden) who takes particular pleasure in taunting Burgundy. A bet made between the two anchors sees the beginning of Burgundy’s rise on GNN and his news media redemption.
Ferrell and McKay as the credited screenwriters throw everything they can into the comedy mix. Some works, some doesn’t, but enough outright laughter is generated that the movie chugs along steadily on its own crazy comic rails. A subplot featuring a romance between the very strange GNN receptionist Chani (Kirsten Wiig) and Steve Carrel’s socially challenged Brick is a gem of comic invention. A riff on “The Avengers” battle of New York comes late in the film and provides another gem. Ferrell’s comedy works so well here because despite his flaws we find ourselves rooting for Ron Burgundy. Ego-driven he may be, but there is nothing mean about him. He’s just a guy trying to make history by reading it on the nightly news.
See you at the movies!