Little surprise that the Channel 4 News Team has no respect for WW deadlines—Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues screened after we'd already gone to press.
Critic's Grade: B-
It's been nearly a decade since Ron Burgundy and the Channel 4 News Team graced the silver screen, but you'd be forgiven for thinking they never left. Will Ferrell's best character has been on the lips of fans since he last signed off, and as soon as Ron himself announced the character's return on Conan
last year, he's been everywhere: commercials, actual newscasts, talk shows, book shelves, liquor cases, ice cream freezers. It never seemed to end. After a year of anticipation, we'd be forgiven for being a little sick of the hype.
But oh, does Anchorman 2 contain some of the biggest belly laughs to be had in theaters in some time, and the minute Ron hits the screen reading nonsense news and exclaiming "By the hymen of Olivia Newton-John," goodwill returns.
Where the original Anchorman marveled at the foreign-seeming world of '70s network news, director Adam McKay's sequel takes its cue from his buddy-cop flick The Other Guys. He also peppers the screwball, surrealist comedy with an actual message, taking aim at the decline of real journalism as perpetrated by Burgundy, racist sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), hornball investigative reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and dimwit weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell). The brave new world they conquer: The 24-hour cable news cycle of the '80s, where the team one-ups its competition by airing alarmist weather warnings and baseless live reporting on car chases.
So we have Burgundy ushering in a proto Fox News drawn so broadly that it even has a scheming Aussie owner, and it works like gangbusters because, unlike the original, most of the laughs are derived from what we see everyday. Meanwhile, Ron deals with his awkward reactions to an interracial office, Brick finds romance and McKay rolls out more celebrity cameos than a decade's worth of Muppet flicks.
Yet for all its spot-on comedy, Anchorman 2 contains just as many misses as it does hits, particularly a bizarre second act in which Ron leaves the business for some soul searching. It’s a sequence that goes on far too long and, strangely, transforms Ron into a sympathetic champion for journalistic integrity. It becomes the Ron Burgundy Passion Play, with the character actually caring about something more than waterskiing squirrels. It's a little weird, and not in the way we'd expect from a sequel to a movie that climaxed with a heartfelt conversation between a bear and a terrier.
But if it sounds like Anchorman 2 is a let-down, do keep in mind that this is also a film that includes a man bottle-feeding a shark, the ghost of a Civil War general, investigative reporting that involves taste-testing street drugs, soda-machine romances, allusions to Bloodsport, condoms made of mongoose hair, and the theme song from Xanadu as an aphrodisiac. It's mile-a-minute comedy, and packs some hysterical laughs. But at two hours, it's inevitable that some of the gags would go belly-up like so many non-bottle-fed sharks. It's good to have Ron Burgundy back. But after a year of overkill, the movie kind of overstays its welcome.