By Odin's beard! The spirit of Movies 2013 is all over Anchorman: The Legend Continues. It's got a "working at SeaWorld will kill your soul" vibe, just like Blackfish. It's all superfly '70s New York bullshit and self-delusion, like American Hustle. It's got a shark fight right outta The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (and poor but hilarious Kristen Wiig playing basically the exact same part she plays in Mitty).
It's got a man lamenting getting left behind in a creative realm that's moving on without him, like Inside Llewyn Davis. It's got a strong black woman fighting for her place in the world, just like 12 Years a Slave and The Butler. And so long as I'm stretching, it has a fight for human survival against impossible odds, just like Gravity and All Is Lost (if battling corporate power and money counts as an impossible odd).
If Anchorman 2 had come along even six months later, we'd suspect intentional parody. But for this film to hit simultaneously with most of those others? The cultural zeitgeist must be even more dire than I was sensing, if even the dumb comedies are tapped into it.
Except this ain't dumb. Not like the first Anchorman. As I was laughing my butt off at this new movie, I thought: Did I miss something the first time around? So I re-watched Anchorman, which I hadn't seen since it was new in 2004. But no: Anchorman had nothing to say beyond "Aren't '70s fashions in clothes and misogyny hilarious?"
The Legend Continues, on the other hand, has some meat to it. Not a lot, and nothing terribly surprising, but it's possible that it might open a few eyes to a depressing reality. We're meant to "enjoy" the "hilarity" of how clueless Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his team of local-news idiots — ladies'-man reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), creepy sports guy Champ Kind (David Koechner), and slow-and-weird weather man Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) — invented the nonstop parade of gossip, sensationalism, disaster and shouting matches that passes for modern journalism. And they did this because they needed to win a bet against the handsome, suave lead anchor, Jack Lime (James Marsden) at the brand-new 24-hour all-news channel they've all been hired to help launch.
It's funny, but in a way that makes you want to take hostages and yell, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." And then you remember that Network predates even this era, and things have only gotten worse since.
Ferrell and director Adam McKay co-wrote the script and produced the film, and they're not concerned only with satire. They've also brought a level of insane nonsense to Burgundy & Co. that was not present last time. It's almost Monty Python-esque in places, and it's clearly a conscious effort to amp up the ridiculousness. Carell's character in particular is far more enjoyably off-skew than he was before, and he has a scene with a green screen that had me screaming with laughter.
Anchorman 2 is far from a perfect film. It takes too long to get going. It's oddly, crudely edited in places and wildly uneven, with its big laughs interrupted by unfunny, dragged-out bits. But when it works, it's so deliciously bizarre that it almost makes you not hate Ron Burgundy for ruining the news forever.