One can be forgiven for thinking the new Anchorman sequel has been in theaters for a few weeks already.
Will Ferrell’s mustachioed character Ron Burgundy has made more media appearances than a politician in the week before Election Day. He’s popped up in a curling competition, on ESPN, at the Newseum, on a nightly newscast as well as the standard trek through the late night circuit. He’s even got his own gaming app.
It’s not as if we don’t already know the character, the star of the 2004 comedy which slowly but surely became a cult movie staple.
So why the hard sell for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues opening nationwide Dec. 18?
Burgundy himself makes it easier to insert him into almost any scenario. He’s a pompous faux newsman who looks right at home on Conan O’Brien’s couch or asking Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning some silly questions. Why not exploit that quality?
The marketing push reminds us of how the media landscape has changed since the original Anchorman hit theaters. Movie goers have much more to consider for their entertainment dollar, from streaming content to videos they can watch on their iPhones. The cultural noise level is higher than it was nine years ago, and whatever a studio can do to cut through the din helps push the product.
It’s also clear that Ferrell is no longer a sure thing at the box office. Some of his recent comedies (Land of the Lost, Casa De Mi Padre) tanked, and his increasingly political persona could make an Anchorman sequel less intriguing in right-of-center circles.
The wild card here may be the new film’s subtext. Early reviews hint the feature taunts Fox News and CNN, the 24-hour news channels which help shape popular opinion. Both Ferrell and director Adam McKay, longtime collaborators who share a progressive vision, are known to smite their political targets in their work. Consider The Campaign, the 2012 Ferrell comedy which took shots at the right-leaning Koch brothers. The Ferrell/McKay creation Funny or Die is a propaganda arm of ObamaCare, plain and simple.
Perhaps that crucial opening day weekend is the new film’s best bet for snaring a slice of the winter’s box office pie. Audiences could be tantalized by Ferrell’s humorous press tour and be hungry for more. Or, they might have sat through the character’s retro shtick and ‘stache so many times they won’t pay to do so again.