Not a disaster, but not a new, surefire template for how to do a comedy sequel either. Some jokes work better than others, of course, but Anchorman 2’s success ratio feels well below that of the first film.
I like that Will Ferrell and Adam McKay took a shot at adding a strong satirical component to the second film, as they lampoon the dumbing down of national news in the name of ratings and corporate synergy. But the movie also feels a little empty. The first Anchorman is charged by the Burgundy vs. Corningstone turf war, which the second has no suitable replacement for. Christina Applegate is back but grossly underused. (Though she does get off one of the best lines in the movie with: “This white thunder rolls deep.” ) Ron’s new love interest, played by Meagan Good, is a nothing character whose only real purpose is to set up some iffy racial humor.
Worst of all, Steve Carrell’s Brick Tamland — no doubt hilarious in short bursts the first time around — is given more of a central role in the sequel, which blunts the impact of his character something fierce. There’s no need for a Carrell/Kristen Wiig romance to be in this movie, but you get one anyway. If someone was going to get more screen time, I wish it would have been Paul Rudd, but he, along with David Koechner, feel shoved into the background for too much of the movie.
Anchorman 2 does pick up steam toward the end and finally hits the heights of lunacy we all were hoping for during the Great News Team Throwdown Part Deux, which is wisely placed at the end of the movie. Filled with great cameos (the History Channel news team!), great gags (Brick’s new weapon!) and mayhem of all sorts, the battle manages to surpass all conceivable expectations … even if the movie as a whole falls a good bit short.
At least, it feels like that now, anyway. That’s the tricky thing with comedies — they can age much better or much worse than normal films. No doubt the original Anchorman only grew funnier the more you watched it, and the fairest way to assess its sequel isn’t on opening weekend but only after you’ve seen it two or three more times on pay-cable. Maybe, by then, the sections of the film that target today’s news-media climate will feel even sharper and more daring. Or maybe the boring bits, like Ron’s seemingly never-ending bout of blindness, will be an even bigger slog to get through. In the meantime, consider Anchorman 2 a success in that it’s a comedy sequel that doesn’t stink. Just don’t expect it to come close to hitting the heights of the original.