VOD film review: Anchorman 2
James R | On 17, Apr 2014
Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, James Marsden David Koechner
“Why does the news have to tell people what they need to hear? Why can’t we tell them what they want to hear?”
Ron Burgundy is back. Not that you need us to tell you. The man with the moustache has been everywhere in the last year, a blitz of marketing designed to prevent what happened when Anchorman arrived in 2004: not very much. Nonetheless, Will Ferrell’s inspired comic newscaster found its fans eventually but failed to translate that audience into numbers. And that’s where it counts: numbers.
Ron’s employers feel the same way. And so he’s fired by his boss (a stern Harrison Ford, channeling Leslie Nielsen), while his co-anchor and lover, Veronica Cornerstone, is promoted. Then, a job offer comes his way: to read the news on America’s first 24-hour news channel. He agrees and reassembles the news team, only to find he’s in the graveyard shift. The prime slot? That belongs to Jack Lime (the always-brilliant James Marsden, in full slime-ball mode).
A reckless bet later and Ron is doing anything he can to get the channel’s highest ratings at 2am. The solution? Breasts, drugs, cute photos and pro-American speeches. Needless to say, it works. Soon, all the stations are at it in a frantic race to get the highest figures.
Satire? In a Will Ferrell film? That’s actually where Anchorman 2 impresses most: by giving its story a topical edge, the sequel avoids being a string of rehashed sketches and actually becomes a coherent movie.
Coherent, of course, is the wrong word for a film that runs down every blind alley that takes its fancy: everything from deep-fried bats to cat photos is thrown up on the screen. But director Adam McKay makes the majority of it stick. How? Is it because Ron Burgundy is simply a stronger creation than many of Will Ferrell’s other personas? That’s partly it. Whether it’s the salon quality hair or the unfeasibly large moustache, Ferrell’s dolt is charmingly clueless. Attempts to develop the character, though, and take him to new extremes of unintentional awkwardness fall flat – one dinner scene with a Black family is decidedly unfunny.
It soon becomes clear that the main reason it all works is actually Steve Carell. Alongside David Koechner’s Champ and Paul Rudd’s Brian Fantana, weatherman Brick steals the show, mostly by doing the same shtick as the last time. But Carrell’s ability to deadpan outrageous lines never fails – and those laughs cover a lot of other holes. The introduction of an equally straight-faced Kristen Wiig as his female equivalent gives Carrell someone new to play against, pushing the gag rate higher and even giving the one-joke guy a hint of depth.
This is where McKay’s haphazard comedy finds its groove: the balance between smart and silly. Even when trying to contrive a serious narrative arc that sees Ron hit rock bottom (again), the corny melodrama is driven by that most unexpected of plot devices: a shark. In a Buzzfeed-inspired age where the media has become increasingly dominated by recycled nonsense, computer graphics and anything animal-related to get an audience, Anchorman 2 feels oddly prescient. It manages that rare achievement of being both engagingly intelligent and unspeakably stupid. It’s no The Day Today, but it is a movie in which Will Ferrell takes care of a carnivorous fish for his son.
It goes without saying that the end result is far from perfect. The recycling of former jokes and nods for in-house fans falls a bit flat and the two-hour runtime is way too long, but why tell you what you need to hear, when we can just tell you the one thing you want to hear? Anchorman 2 is very funny. In fact, despite the occasional misstep you’ll lose track of the number of times you laugh. And that’s where it counts.