Was anyone else dreading the arrival of “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues?” I know I was, but that’s only because the hype surrounding the film was the kind of overwhelming, ever-present hype that only comes with the kind of dreary, uninspired product that Hollywood relentlessly bullies the world into seeing. For every interesting idea that was used to promote the film (like Ron Burgundy’s autobiography and the local Midwestern newscast Will Ferrell co-anchored in character), there were far more that existed simply to irritate (like those constant Dodge Durango ads).
Additionally, it didn’t help that some of director Adam McKay’s earlier concepts for the sequel seemed far more ballsy and innovative (such as the fact that McKay originally wanted to adapt the sequel into a Broadway musical or the bizarre idea that found Burgundy and his news team living on a space station). For all intents and purposes, “Anchorman 2” seemed like it was shaping up to be the greatest disappointment of 2013.
Fortunately, that isn’t the case because in addition to being one of the funniest comedies released this year, “Anchorman 2” is also one of the weirdest. Where else are you going to see Harrison Ford turn into a werewolf or Kanye West murdered by a futuristic ray gun?
As in the original “Anchorman,” the plot in “Anchorman 2” is almost inconsequential and exists mainly as a loose framework to cram as many gags into the film as possible. After being fired from a weekend co-anchor position for being “the worst newsman in the world,” Ron Burgundy (Farrell) slinks back to San Diego where he drunkenly emcees dolphin shows at Sea World. But just as he’s about to ineptly attempt suicide by hanging himself from a fluorescent lamp, hope arrives in the form of Dylan Baker, who offers Ron a late-night anchor position at GNN, a burgeoning 24-hour cable news network.
After reassembling his original news team (Paul Rudd, David Koechner, and Steve Carell all reprising their original roles), Ron finds himself clashing with Jack Lime (James Marsden), an arrogant young upstart who bets Ron that his primetime GNN slot will slaughter Ron’s late-night spot in the ratings. However, once Ron decides to give people the news they want to hear rather than the news they need to hear, he not only becomes the most popular anchor at GNN, he also single-handedly revolutionizes the face of news reporting for the worst.
Like most comedies made today, “Anchorman 2” is slightly bloated and infected by the same kind of loose improvisatory energy that made “The Heat” and “This is the End” so scattershot, unfocused, and inconsistent. But comedy by its very nature is inconsistent, and even though there’s a fair amount of gags that don’t really work in “Anchorman 2” (such as Ron’s obliviously tense encounter with a black family and his subsequent struggle with blindness), there’s many more that do (the scene where Rudd brags about giving Florence Henderson crabs really does it for me). And, unlike the Austin Powers movies, “Anchorman 2” isn’t just a greatest hits package where everybody merely rehashes the most beloved bits from the first movie. Similar to the overlooked but nearly brilliant comedy stylings of Chris Elliott and Adam Resnick, “Anchorman 2” is gleefully absurdist but trenchant enough to skewer the empty news reporting of Fox News and its lowest common denominator ilk. It’s the kind of film that simultaneously manages to be razor sharp but still incredibly stupid.
But the main reason why everyone must see “Anchorman 2” is for the return of Carrell’s Brick Tamland, who not only confuses a dog with a tiny, hairy old man, but awkwardly romances Kristen Wiig, whose dim character wears men’s underwear and says things like, “Last night a bird chased me. I wished it was you.” Forget about lamp. I love movie!
Rating: W W W W