Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell, David Koechner, Meagan Good, Christina Applegate, Kristen Wiig, James Marsden
Plot: Ron Burgundy is a has-been, single, unemployed and an emotional wreck. Then he is hired by a radical 24 hour news team.
The original Anchorman movie was one of the most over-hyped classic comedies I have had to sit through. I get the appeal, Will Ferrell’s character a creation of pure childish wonder and the rest of the main cast getting some decent material to show off with. However, the actual writing was very hit and miss, meaning that Anchorman was a movie fighting an uphill battle. Critically, it impressed, but it isn’t quite as decent as it has been made out to be, a few set-pieces (the news team fight being the definite highlight) hitting home, but otherwise a disappointment.
Anchorman 2 starts off quite the same. In fact, the first twenty minutes are particularly painful and unpromising. Everything is thrown at the script in a desperate bid to be liked. Ron Burgundy is an unfiltered mess, which can work in particular circumstances, but this is one section that was in definite need of another draft or a tighter edit. While the Apatow method of improvisation cutting to the finest comedy works well, Anchorman 2’s opening proves that it can sometimes miss drastically. Luckily, things get better when the whole team gets together. Fantana is a kitten photographer, Champ is the owner of a dodgy ‘chicken’ fast food restaurant and they find Brick attending his own funeral. As soon as the four of them are riffing off of one another, the film finally finds its feet. For those still watching, you are in for a treat. Anchorman 2 turns into a definite improvement of the series. While it is still plagued by moments that really shouldn’t have made the final cut (the entire film stops in its tracks to include a pointless ballad about a shark), it is a lot more confident and sure-footed than the original. For one, it seems to have a point. I understand a lot of the point of the Anchorman series is its uncontrollable plotline. It is almost a parody of a biopic, so when it goes off in a remarkably unforeseen direction (Burgundy ends up blind in a lighthouse), it kind of meets its formula. However, this time it does have a few milestones it can hit to keep things steady. For one, it mocks the evolution of news. In the last movie, the action was set firmly in the 80s, where women joining the news team was the radical development of the day. Here, we discuss the 24 hour news channel being born, the corruption of media and the time where ratings became more important than delivering the real news. It is quite interesting and while things are taken to extremes through the tinted glasses of Burgundy, it is amusing watching history unfold with the small exception of Will Ferrell being thrown into the middle.
Everything else is simply the gags. And they work. It helps that Anchorman 2 is able to approach some uncomfortable topics, but blame their inappropriate nature on the stupidity of the leads rather than controversy. For example, the segment where Ron ends up blind never takes pot-shots at the blind, but attacks Ron Burgundy for being too dense to understand his condition. The only time the movie over-steps the mark is with its black jokes, which feel a little bit like the writers trying to make a resurgence of the racist era. Yes, it still fits as jokes aimed at Burgundy rather than the black characters, but it still feels uncomfortable. Other jokes are quite good, despite sounding poor on paper. I was sceptical when the trailers introduced Kristen Wiig’s female Brick character to the series, but in truth, those scenes are amazing. When Carrell and Wiig are on-screen together, every line is unpredictable and brilliant. Their first meeting is outstandingly funny and while the Brick card could be guilty of being a tad overplayed, Carrell still remains the secret weapon of the show. The other positive is the repeat jokes being better than you think they will be. It is a common flaw with comedy sequels, but they always feel obligated to retell some of the jokes from the original movie, bringing up nostalgia. For example, yes, there is another fight sequence and yes, there is a Baxter saves the day moment. However, both of those jokes are actually used decently. The news team fight sequence is a thing of beauty, every trick being thrown at the script and all of it works. Every reveal is side-splitting, the joke rolling into an unstoppable torrent of comedy. Wait until you see Anchorman’s Canada News team. That cameo casting is brilliant.
Final Verdict: Better than the last, with some great moments tucked away, even if the whole product is still slightly uneven.