Friday, March 7, 2014
By John Anderson
NEW YORK — The time: a rainy weekday afternoon. Setting: the book-lined, wainscoted drawing room of an upscale downtown hotel. The fireplace softly sputters. The wait-staff quietly bustles. The guests engage in muted conversation, nestled in leather armchairs. One of those chairs contains Will Ferrell. He is not playing the cowbell.
Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy and Christina Applegate as Veronica Corningstone in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.”
Paramount Pictures photos
Steve Carell as meteorologist Brick Tamland and Kristen Wiig as Chani, Brick’s lover.
“ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES,” starring Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Meagan Good, Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Kristen Wiig and Harrison Ford. Directed by Adam McKay, written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. A Paramount release. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, drug use, language and comic violence. Running time: 1:59
So far, so good.
Ferrell, creator of some of contemporary comedy’s more indelible characters, has not shown up as any of them. Not race driver Ricky Bobby (“Talladega Nights”), not Chazz Michael Michaels (“Blades of Glory”), not Jackie Moon (“Semi-Pro”), not Brennan Huff (“Step Brothers”). Not the cowbell-banging member of Blue Öyster Cult from “Saturday Night Live.” Not George W. Bush (“You’re Welcome, America”) or Abraham Lincoln (“Drunk History”). Not even the seasonally appropriate Buddy the Elf (“Elf”).
Most surprisingly: not the legendary Ron Burgundy – bombastic newscaster, mustachioed narcissist and the centerpiece of “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” (which opened Wednesday). Ferrell’s been playing him for months, after all – on “Conan,” in car ads, at a curling competition in Canada, even a local newscast in Bismarck, N.D. You half expect the clueless newsman to be sitting here, playing cheesy jazz flute and ordering pee-no-nwarr.
“Oh, you don’t want to talk to Ron Burgundy,” the soft-spoken Ferrell laughs – the message being, “How much does Ron possibly have to say?”
Well, he speaks to a large-enough constituency of the American moviegoing public to make “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” – the long-awaited sequel to the cult-fave “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” (2004) – one of the more anticipated releases in a season traditionally devoted to highbrow, lofty-minded Oscar bait that clocks in at around, oh, 2 hours and 59 minutes. At under two hours, “Anchorman 2” has a lot more jokes than “12 Years a Slave.” But it took almost 10 years to make.
Why? “How do I say this diplomatically?” Ferrell asks, preparing to be undiplomatic. “They (Paramount Pictures) were cool to not going beyond a certain budget level, which was ridiculously low. They were running their numbers based on the box-office success of the first one, and not taking into account how much it’s grown in popularity and where all of us are now, professionally speaking. And we were, like, ‘Uhhhhh, I don’t think we can do it for that number.’”
Obviously, the concerned parties found “common ground” and the legend was allowed to continue: Ron, now married to his onetime rival Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), has come to New York – where he’s promptly fired, and Veronica is made the first female anchorperson of a major network. The year is 1980, however, and the birth of 24-hour news is providing opportunity for all manner of inept newspersons. Invited to join an operation clearly modeled on the original CNN, Ron decides to reunite his old San Diego crew – sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), field reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and demented meteorologist Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) – and reinvent the news.
Hilarity – subtle and inane – ensues, but so does a certain satirical take on the media.
“Obviously, we just wanted to make a funny movie first and foremost,” Ferrell said. “But once you decide to do 1980 and 24-hour news, you kind of have to comment on what’s become commonplace. And it made us laugh that Ron Burgundy and these guys would be the forefathers of what we now expect to see on TV news. ‘Oh, he’s the one who thought it all up.’ And that made us laugh.”
One of the “innovations” is now a staple of Los Angeles local news – the high-speed car chase.
(Continued on page 2)