At least twelve laughs in two hours. I’ll take that. Anchorman 2 starts, continues and ends in comparative mayhem. From Harrison Ford grumbling magnificently as a legendary led anchor to an apocalyptic showdown in Central Park the comedy sequel is a scatter-shot collection of weird, random, occasionally sensational moments. Picking up a decade after the events of the original film which left the channel four news team (comprised once again of Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carrel and David Koechner) having reclaimed their place as the top ratings team in San Diego. Now in the 1980s they’re reunited in New York in a bid to launch the first 24 hour news network. Loosely speaking that’s the premise.
From this thin line the writing team of Adam McKay and Will Ferrell launch into bizarre flights of fancy that take the anarchic sense of humour from the first instalment (choice example of Tim Robbins chopping Luke Wilson’s hand off with a machete in a news gang battle) and up the ante ferociously. Characters and plot strands are introduced then left behind or consigned to the background. Animals perform acts of great redemptive heroism and violence and somewhere in there Ron Burgundy stumbles upon the notion that high speed car chases and sensationalist, jingoistic journalism sells. None of this adds up to much in the way of a story, none of it really needs to. Whatever faults-mainly an inconsistent stream after laughs after a bombardment in the opening fifteen minutes-the moment Will Ferrell appears in full Burgundy swagger something magical happens.
Back in his signature role I found it impossible not to smile at the sight of that moustache, walk, and irresistible sense of buffoonery which made the character so endearing ten years ago. This is I think the key to either Anchorman; the laughs are sporadic, more so here, whatever the sometimes violent commitment of the actors at getting a laugh there’s always a charm to these characters (save Steve Carrel’s mentally deficient Brick who here seems to have been left to his own very random devices). Where the script and improvisations stop I don’t know but when the film works it is great comedy.
It’s not without languors. As a Saturday Night Live brain child product there’s a sketch formula to the movie where tangents are snatched at and multiple gags, seemingly improvised at length, are ran through with anything and everything tossed in. Among them shark fights, futuristic weapons, an extraordinary cameo roaster, Ron pioneering trash journalism, a rival played by James Marsden who the film introduces and does little with, a new love interest for Will Ferrell who comes and goes, Christina Applegate returning as Ron’s wife, even the original news team are just there with David Koechner’s Champ getting particularly short shrift. Paul Rudd is in and out of the picture and is excellent when called upon while Steve Carrel is given more time and a love interest of his own (played by Kristen Wig) to explore the enigmatic internal mechanisms of Brick with far more mixed results than first time around.
In that regard the continuing legend of Ron Burgundy is a mixed bag where much of the film seems (although I’m sure this is rigorously scripted for the most part) to lumber from one comic set-piece to another without any discernible pattern, rhythm or consistency. Some of it is fantastically funny and has been, gratefully, withheld during the extensive advertising campaign where the principals’ actors have performed in character rather than spoiling the best jokes. Of which there are enough good ones here to go around. This isn’t a balanced motion picture and there may be a totally different reel of Anchorman 2 playing elsewhere to the one I saw such is the anarchic plotting at hand. Yet even in its weak spots the opening euphoria and scattered moments of brilliance sustains the second chapter in Ron Burgundy’s cinematic legacy.