‘Anchorman 2′ Review
[This review contains some minor spoilers of 'Anchorman 2.']
There are a handful of extremely funny, laugh-out-loud moments in 'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.' One happens early – the reveal that David Koechner now runs a cut-rate fast-food joint that saves money by serving fried bats (or, as he calls it, “chicken of the cave"). Another is a retread from the first film – a battle royale of news teams from various networks, but this time even more extreme. There's also great humor in what I suppose passes for “the point” of this movie – that lowest common denominator attitudes like those of Will Ferrell's Ron Burgundy are what inadvertently invented the cesspool of modern cable news.
Of course, what you will find funny is entirely dependent on your own taste, but these highlighted scenes (and several others, I must point out) really landed with me. It struck me later, as I was trying to piece together why the movie felt about six hours long, that these moments were all dependent on gags that could not have been ad-libbed. Ferrell, Koechner, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and the rest of the gang are deservedly respected for their quick-thinking comedy chops. When they get together and riff, few can top them. The problem is that 'Anchorman 2' relies on this far, far too much. It's like a a dessert plate where mounds of fluffy whipped cream obscures the fact that, underneath, there's only a tiny bite of pie.
The story of 'Anchorman 2' picks up a few years after the first one leaves off. Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) have a kid and are living in New York City. Ron leaves in jealousy, though, when she becomes the first female anchor. (This is set in the early 1980s, remember.) After a drunken, suicidal stint introducing dolphins at Sea World, Dylan Baker (perennially in sunglasses) recruits Ron and his team to work the graveyard shift at the first 24-hour news channel.
The bulk of the picture is a bombardment of awkward humor set pieces, one or two of which are actually funny. The rest are intermittently funny; they serve to remind you that everyone in this film is always ready with an unexpected line reading or a funny facial expression, but there's no way to deny that getting to each high point can be an exhausting experience.
The absolute worst is Steve Carell, especially with the nonsensical introduction of his “true love,” a space cadet played by Kristen Wiig. Carrell's Brick Tamland bit is like a guitar solo that's all speed scales – the role is completely overwhelming and its relentlessness is self-destructive. The over-the-top, intentionally annoying dumb guy schtick drowns out the few quality moments that he has. Indeed – the scene where he can't see his own legs on his monitor because he's wearing green pants in front of a green screen absolutely kills. Again, it's something that clearly was fleshed-out and scripted – it wasn't something that the team decided to wing while the cameras were rolling.
Will Ferrell, the anchor of 'Anchorman,' remains hilarious and, again, few can extemporize quite like he can. Eventually, it does just start to sound like a bunch of shouting – throwing up any and all possible jokes in the hopes of landing a new quotable line.
I don't want to sound like a complete monster. Amidst all this vamping are numerous gems worthy of your chuckle when this picture plays on cable over and over again. There are also a dozen or so solid surprise cameos, each of which are great. As for whether or not you should see 'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues' in a theater is entirely dependent on how much you already are a fan of the Will Ferrell-Adam McKay style. There is an undeniable irony that, however miniscule it may be, the story being told here is a cautionary one about the media-consuming public's systematically lowered standards. Alas, this movie is miles from being as good as the first one.
'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues' opens in theaters on December 18.
Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on Film.com, Badass Digest and StarTrek.com.