|Film review: Anchorman 2|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Wednesday, 18 December 2013 18:27|
Director: Adam McKay
"Why does the news have to tell people what they need to hear? Why can't we tell them what they want to hear?"
Yes, Ron Burgundy is back. Not that you need me to inform you of that. The man with the moustache has been everywhere in the last month, a blitz of marketing designed to prevent what happened when Anchorman arrived in 2004: not very much.
It wasn't through lack of trying. The comedy took a typically scattergun approach - so much so that there's actually already been an Anchorman sequel, included on the original DVD, made up of bits they didn't use in the first film. It’s not very good. Nonetheless, Will Ferrell's inspired comic newscaster found its fans eventually but failed to translate that audience into figures. And that's where it counts: numbers.
Ron’s employers feel the same way. And so he’s fired by his boss (a stern Harrison Ford, channeling Leslie Nielsen), while his co-anchor and lover Veronica Cornerstone is promoted. Then, a job offer comes his way: to read the news on America's first 24-hour news channel. He agrees and reassembles the news team - only to find he's in the graveyard shift. The prime slot? That belongs to Jack Lime (the always-brilliant James Marsden, in full slime-ball mode).
A reckless bet later and Ron is doing anything he can to get the channel's highest ratings at 2am. The solution: breasts, drugs, cute photos and pro-American speeches. Needless to say, it works.
Soon, all the stations are at it in a frantic race to get the highest figures. Because that's where it counts: numbers. I know what you're thinking: Satire? In a Will Ferrell film? That's where Anchorman 2 impresses most: by giving its story a topical edge, the sequel avoids being a string of rehashed sketches and actually becomes a coherent movie.
Coherent, of course, is the wrong word for a film that runs down any blind alley that takes its fancy: everything from deep-fried bats to cat photos is thrown up on the screen. But director Adam McKay makes most of it stick.
How? Is it because Ron Burgundy is simply a stronger creation than many of Will Ferrell's other personas? That's partly it. Whether it's the salon quality hair or the unfeasibly large moustache, Ferrell's dolt is charmingly clueless. Attempts to develop the character, though, and take him to new extremes of unintentional awkwardness fall flat - one dinner scene with black people is decidedly unfunny.
It eventually becomes clear that the main reason it all works is Steve Carell. Alongside David Koechner’s Champ and Paul Rudd’s Brian Fantana, weatherman Brick steals the show, mostly by doing the same shtick as the last time. But Carrell's ability to deadpan completely outrageous lines never fails – and those laughs cover a lot of other holes. The introduction of an equally straight-faced Kristen Wiig as his female equivalent even gives Carrell someone new to play against, pushing the gag rate higher and (amazingly) giving the one-joke guy a hint of depth.
This is where McKay's haphazard, ultimately unnecessary film finds its brilliance: the impossible, unpredictable balance between smart and silly. Even when trying to contrive a serious narrative arc that sees Ron hit rock bottom (again), the corny melodrama is driven by that most unexpected of plot devices: a shark.
In a Buzzfeed age where the media has become increasingly dominated by recycled nonsense, computer graphics and anything animal-related to get an audience, Anchorman 2 feels scarily prescient. It’s no The Day Today, but it is a film in which Will Ferrell raises a shark for his child. It manages that rare achievement of being both engagingly intelligent and unspeakably stupid.
It goes without saying that it’s far from perfect. The recycling of former jokes and nods for in-house fans falls a bit flat and the two-hour runtime is way too long, but why tell you what you need to hear, when I can just tell you the one thing you want to hear? Anchorman 2 is very, very funny. You'll lose track of the number of times you laugh. And that’s where it counts.