By: Dan Grant
It’s been nearly a decade since Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was released on July 9th, 2004.
Let’s put that in perspective. When the movie was released, George W. Bush was still in his first term as president and was gearing up run for re-election against John Kerry. 9/11 was less than three years old. Hurricane Katrina hadn’t yet happened. YouTube didn’t exist (really!). Google was still just a search engine. iPod’s only came in one size. The Curse of the Babe still haunted the Red Sox. The Shaq-Kobe Lakers had just been dethroned by the Detroit Pistons. The Summer Olympics were about to happen in Athens. And somewhere, somewhere, I was 18, drinking an Old Milwaukee (Will Ferrell endorsed!) and listening to Led Zeppelin really loud.
OK, you get it. It was a long-ass time ago!
I remember seeing Anchorman in the theatre three times, which means it really blew me away. I really only recall the third time, with my best friend Craig, at the old Rainbow Cinemas up at Fairview Mall, here in Toronto. I can’t figure out the first two times – I was in first year university at the time, so I suspect they may have been in majestic Brantford, Ontario – they are likely to be forever unconfirmed.
The movie was Will Ferrell’s first starring role in a vehicle of his own design. He stole the show in 2001’s Zoolander, 2003’s Old School and 2003’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. He had excelled as a recurring character in the Austin Powers movies and was slowly becoming the biggest star to ever remain a player on Saturday Night Live. He took his first starring turn in 2003’s Elf, a surprise hit and Christmas staple, that was, at it’s heart, a family movie. In Anchorman, he was given the keys to the car, along with his writing partner Adam McKay.
He didn’t disappoint.
Ferrell still calls it the role he feels best represents what he is about, comedically. The sheer scale of the nonsense, the commitment and talent of the cast, the well written and cogent plot; the movie is a perfect storm of Ferrell at the height of his powers, in the absolute dream role for his outrageous style.
By setting the movie in the 1970’s, McKay and Ferrell smartly gave themselves myriad options to be chauvinistic, brash and offensive, all with a giant grain of salt and without really offending anyone. By making Veronica Corningstone the ‘hero’, in the sense that the audience sympathizes with her, they allowed Burgundy to go to places that a traditional protagonist couldn’t have.
The movie cemented Ferrell as the next big thing, the next Carrey-Myers-Sandler.
It instantly became one of the most oft-quoted movies of all time. The most-quoted, according to some sources. Everybody has their favourites:
I miss your musk. Brick killed a guy. I immediately regret this decision. Oh Baxter, my little china doll! Como estan, bitches! And on and on.
It’s a touchstone. It got annoying around 2007, but a good Anchorman quote is now back in style. People love it and love talking about it. It’s eminently re-watchable and in my opinion, it still ranks first when you talk about Ferrell’s career.
Which is why so much is riding on the sequel.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues comes out in theatres today and is a movie that is going to struggle with wild expectations and wilder hype. Will Ferrell has been everywhere promoting it. Listening to the cast talk about it, they don’t seem worried, but what else are they going to say? Some have said the over the top marketing campaign doesn’t bode well for the movie (why promote so hard if the movie is good?) but some say if it was garbage, there’s no way a promotional campaign of this scale would be happening either.
The likelihood is that it’s somewhere in the middle. And frankly, there are a few key elements I’m going to need to see before I give it my personal stamp of approval – which I know you’re all dying for.
The star of the movie has to be Ron Burgundy. The cast of the original film was obviously a massive strength. From Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell and Brian Koechner on the Channel 4 News Team, to Vince Vaughn, Jack Black and Chris Parnell in small supporting roles, everyone shined, which is part of what made the movie great.
That said, Burgundy needs to carry the load as he did in the first film. His initial courtship of Veronica (and the results). His discussion of colognes with Rudd’s Brian Fantana. His love for Baxter. His love for scotch. These are the things that made the movie great and allowed everyone else to shine. Without Burgundy walking the tightrope between idiocy and greatness, the movie won’t work.
The music! Adam McKay was quoted in 2012 as stating that because of the success of music numbers in his movies (Anchorman included!), they originally wanted to do Anchorman 2 on Broadway, as a musical for 6 months and then make a film to follow up. We’ve since learned this was kibosh-ed and also that there was a massive musical number dropped from the final cut of the new film, which the cast feel will likely appear in special features on the DVD.
All that said, the music in the first movie was really important. From the cheesy news intros, to the spectacularly random Afternoon Delight, to Ron displaying his chops as avid jazz flautist, the music gave the movie a lightness and nicely broke up the ridiculous dialogue that basically never ends. The flute has been present in the promotional push, and Afternoon Delight was revisited when the gang joined Rudd as he hosted SNL two weeks ago. Here’s hoping there’s at least some present in the new film.
On the DVD of the original film, you have the choice to watch the theatre version vs. the uncut version. I am still partial to the theatre version. There are small changes – a scene is extended outside the News Station where Ron says ‘Fuck’ about eighty times, as opposed to the four or five in the original movie. A scene is added where Fred Armisen’s nightclub owner forces Ferrell to eat dog crap as apology to earn himself a steak. A few of Brick and Champ’s one liners are changed. Overall, they don’t really add anything to the movie and in fact, the original product is tighter and funnier.
I worry that since Ferrell is now such a massive star and McKay such a successful director, that some of the restrictions that were placed on the first film won’t be present. It’s Farrelly Brothers Syndrome. When they were restricted by big stars and an interested studio, they made Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. When given carte blanche, they made Osmosis Jones and Hall Pass. I hope that for this movie ‘creative’ doesn’t equal ‘more over-the-top’.
I’ve already spoken about the need for Burgundy to hold the reins, and that’s true. But almost equally as important is the need for the cameos, supporting and bit parts to shine. New stars in the sequel include Harrison Ford, Kristen Wiig, Liam Neeson, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, James Marsden, Greg Kinnear, and yes, Kanye friggin’ West. They’ll join the returning Vaughn, Luke Wilson and the fantastic Fred Willard. With that kind of talent, obviously the potential is there, but the cameos can’t be allowed to overwhelm. Ed Harken better have his day!
The less quoted lines of the movie are key (hence the title of this section). The ability of the writers to get a laugh even when none of the stars are on screen is what separates a movie like Anchorman from other comedies. There were no breaks. Let’s hope things are as clever this time around.
I’ll finish by saying that despite the caveat about expectations, I have high hopes for the film. I hope they make five more. Hell, I’ve missed the cast. I love them. I think that when this is all over, we should get an apartment together!