"Anchorman 2" Review: Craig's First Take

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San Diego's top-rated newsman, Ron Burgundy, is back for the second time with even more hilarity than before.
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It was by no means his first hit but the first “Anchorman” basically laid the groundwork for almost everything that would come afterwards for Will Ferrell- the buffoonish professional who falls from grace and then learns the error of his ways. Along with writing and producing partner Adam McKay, who also directs here, “Anchorman 2” is about exactly what you might expect from the comedian; a lot of absurd hit-or-miss stuff and jokes that rarely go above incredibly stupid but also the feeling that everyone involved is trying immensely hard to make you belly laugh. And it usually works too.

Here Ron has been dumped both as an anchor and by his wife (Christina Applegate). Now a washed up drunk working at Sea World in 1980, he’s approached by GNN, looking to start the first 24-hour network news division in New York. Who could refuse? Ron readies his news crew; Jim (David Koechner), now running a very suspect fast food chicken place, Brian (Paul Rudd), a cat photographer, and brain-damaged Brick (Steve Carell), presumed dead before he shows up at his own funeral. Ron soon finds he has a rival in co-anchor Jack Lime (James Marsden) and a black female manager in Linda (Meagan Good).

This cast each has their moments but they can’t compete with Ferrell; he lays the whole performance on so thick from the over-indulgence, the haughty voice, the blurting out of nonsense, and the excellently coifed hair and bushy mustache, he’s a cartoon but one that continues to push absurdist laughs to their over-the-top heights. It’s only Carell who can ever at times match him (he has a great gag about his shadow) but mostly Rudd, Koechner, Applegate, and Marsden each just do the best with the little they’re given. Kristin Wiig, playing an equally dim love interest for Brick, is here with mixed results.

The laughs are sometimes crude and sometimes take jabs at the early 80’s (there’s a funny O.J Simpson one here) and there is a News-Channel battle with some great cameos towards the end. The movie seems less sure of itself when it tries to satirize the entertainment part of 24 Hour News or the racial politics of the 80’s (a dinner sequence with Linda’s family is a swing and a miss). Mostly “Anchorman 2” works best as “random-dumb”, hitting way more on its goofy shtick than on insightful jokes. And Ferrell’s manic energy again is the highlight.