I have just got back from Anchorman 2 and wanted to get my thoughts down while they formed in my laughter filled head.
The good news is my brain is scrabbling to remember all the really great lines and bits in the movie, this means there were, thankfully, lots of them. The second thing I should point out is that I could watch the Channel 4 news-team play tiddlywinks for 2 hours and be happy. So I am definitely a soft sell member of this movies key target audience of loyal Anchorman fans.
Bare that in mind and make of it what you, inevitably, will.
So, continuing with the good, the first 30-45 minutes of the movie, the getting the boys back together and the establishing of the key story elements are absolutely fantastic. Hilarious, well played and a great 'welcome back' to the world of Burgandy. After the joyously strong opening, the film struggles a bit without a strong, 3 act structure to hang the jokes on but it is still very funny. However the laugh count has reduced from 3 every minute to 1 or 2 big laughs every 10 minutes.
Much like McKay's and Ferrell's films The Other Guys and The Campaign, Anchorman 2 has a fairly blatant satire at its core of the 24hr news cycle. It conflicted me a little because while I will never ever knock comedies that try and make a point, I am not sure it belongs or fits well with the Burgandy and news team characters. The joke of the first film was an acutely realised absurd pomposity and arrogance of four, highly damaged male characters and the reckless decade they inhabit. That is somewhat missing here as they aren't really battling anything here or confused by anything. The characters in the sequel just go through a series of rises and falls, stumbling through comedy sketch after sketch, always with an eye on the satire of the absurdity of shitty cable news, or with an eye to telling a joke and, often, beating it to death, but with very little regard for a story. So the first film comes off looking like it had an actual structure and while it, too, has many ludicrous and surreal flights of fancy, the story is always moving forward. This sequel, by comparison, is more like the 'unofficial-only-on-dvd' sequel Wake Up, Ron Burgundy, a movie compiled (rather than planned) using different takes, cut scenes and a whole removed sub plot from the first film. This is not to disparage it, just an attempt to vocalise what this film IS.
The sequel, like the first, shot two movies worth of footage and the first rough cut was 4hrs long. By a process of test screenings, private screenings and tinkering we get the finished result. Although I hate test screenings, I am sure this was the same on the first film, it's just in that case they had not one but two 3 act structured stories they could use. In Anchorman 2, it feels like, they, probably, just picked the funnier stuff; Whether it made sense or had a flow to it, or not.
Anchorman, at times, is a weird movie but just like Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie, Anchorman 2 is weirder. There's a whole sequence in the middle of the film set around a lighthouse that is just bizarre and not always laugh-out-loud funny bizarre but always intriguing, surprising and weird. Ferrell and McKay, given the chance to finally make the sequel have gone a bit hog wild in parts. It feels like several of the more left-field funny or die sketches strung together. The ending, too, takes some of the reality bending concepts of the first film and explodes them up to 22 (twice as much as 11). Again, because of the way this was edited and put together, the direction seems less focussed and pleasing than McKay has achieved in something like, the relatively normal by comparison, Step Brothers, for example. Not that I cared too much. In fact I welcomed it. McKay and Ferrell as a team are experimental, weird, wonderful, intelligent, odd, satirical, surreal and just damn funny but the mainstream eat it up. Possibly because they're also delightfully silly but I like to think that the mainstream gets a bit starved for crazy shit sometimes and so embraces people like Ferrell to make sure the scale doesn't tip too far into Blandville.
In terms of the performances the film is, honestly, the Ron and Brick show. This isn't a huge concern however as Ferrell and, especially, Carrell slip back into the roles as if they'd never been away. It's a little sad, however, that Veronica, Fantana and Champ get little to do once the initial 40mins is up. As for the new additions to the cast it's really only Kristin Wiig that gets to match the madness of the men, James Marsden is sort of miscast in the role. I've never really liked him much and, while he certainly looks the part, is no match for the others around him in the comedy stakes. He tries his best and doesn't stink up the joint but there are plenty who could've played it better.
The last point to make is that Anchorman 2 does suffer from the Austin Powers/Waynes World syndrome of recycled gags, or in this case it's more like welcome referential humour nodding at particular character tropes or gags of the first film and either expanding or changing them in some way. This is not over done and it's not grating but it's definitely there. Most of the time it's welcome and even, by a weird area of human nature and humour that loves familiarity, demanded, so don't worry but it was definitely worth mentioning.
All that being said and I realise this review may have sounded negative in parts, I loved the film. It's the weirdest, most experimental and silliest mainstream Christmas comedy and sequel since Gremlins 2 and it's funny. If, like me, you have watched Anchorman and Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie a lot and just want to spend more time with those guys, you won't be disappointed and there's enough to make the uninitiated chuckle too, though they will, probably, have no idea what's going on. The nice thing is that they have filled the scene with lots of in-gags and sight jokes that will lend itself to delightful 2nd, 3rd, 4th viewings and so on. There's also been talk of releasing the other 2 hrs of this film as an alternative version so, I imagine, the DVD/Blu-Ray set of this will be a never ending treasure trove of great lines and ludicrous scenarios.
Time to cherish a movie like this, even with its flaws. because studios just don't bet on weird ideas like this anymore, as can be attested to by the, quite frankly, odd array of really shitty film trailers which preceded this.
7.5 out of 10