A studio executive sprints down the halls of a Paramount Pictures and bursts into the office of the studio head and proclaims, ‘have you seen the numbers of these Anchorman DVDs?!?’ Looking down at a series of pie charts, the studio head caresses his chin and replies, ‘I think if we can find enough synergy with this, survey the fan base and put the results into a sequel, we’ll be rocking down Profit Boulevard’. Commence dance montage. Anchorman 2 feels like the percentages from a test audience allocated into a sequel. You want more Brick? You got it. You want more cameos? Your wish is granted. You want multiple Will Ferrell freak outs? It’s all for you loyal fan. The good news is that Anchorman 2 is funny but while it goes bigger it doesn’t necessarily mean better.
Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) and his news team (Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner) are hired by the first television network to run a 24 hour news channel. The group are relegated to the graveyard shift but slowly gain notoriety with a new approach to the news.
Director/co-writer Adam McKay and co-writer Ferrell go bonkers with their goofball humour and Anchorman 2 is chock full of gags. McKay and Ferrell use the formula of ‘random equals funny’ and the duo furiously fire off one liners, set pieces for each character (Carrell’s weatherman Brick getting the most additional screen time) and indulging in the bravado and pig headedness of Burgundy’s ‘man’s man’. McKay and Ferrell do get a little carried away with their comedic freedom, no doubt enabled by a feeling of entitlement because they have the cult following of the first film on their side. Jokes veer into hardcore cringe territory with humour at the expense of African American characters, women and a variety of ethnic minorities. These moments are on the same wavelength as your misogynistic racist uncle’s sense of humour. Anchorman 2 has a shade of darkness laced in the wit that is a complete turnaround from cartoonish nature of the predecessor.
The strength of Anchorman 2 is when McKay and Ferrell allow the news team to parody the modern state of television journalism. There are moments when Burgundy and his team essentially invent the Fox News template for broadcast television with wacky animal stories, live car chases and nauseating graphics covering the screen. The writing duo manages to cleverly use their absurd characters to make a point about the lunacy of the way the news is covered and the corporations obscuring the news for financial gain. Of course, McKay and Ferrell never let it get too serious and always have something crazy lined up to throw the film back into random mode.
Ferrell has to be commended to his unabashed commitment to playing Burgundy and it’s a completely ludicrous performance. The actor switches between stone cold one-liners and slapstick bouts of hysterics with ease. Carrell practically gets second billing in Anchorman 2 and doesn’t waste the opportunity to finesse his dim-witted weather man. Also, every scene Carrell shares with a love interest played by Kristen Wiig is hilarious. Rudd and Koechner don’t get as much extra screen time as Carrell but they continue to round out the oddball news team nicely, especially Rudd, who nails the material like a comedic ninja. Together the four actors have the perfect chemistry; they are the court of jesters of McKay’s oddball universe. The cameos come thick and fast with McKay pulling out the A-List of his little black book and making it work to the film’s advantage by ramping up the fun.
When talking about a comedy it’s the laughter that counts and Anchorman 2 had me cackling but I also cringed as McKay and Ferrell pushed the boundaries of their creation to little gain. The giddy Anchorman cow has been milked dry.
and a half
Cameron Williams - follow Cam on Twitter here: @popcornjunkies