Directed by: Adam McKay.
Written by: Will Ferrell & Adam McKay.
Starring: Will Ferrell (Ron Burgundy), Steve Carell (Brick Tamland), Paul Rudd (Brian Fantana), David Koechner (Champ Kind), Christina Applegate (Veronica Corningstone), Dylan Baker (Freddie Shapp), Meagan Good (Linda Jackson), Judah Nelson (Walter Burgundy), James Marsden (Jack Lime), Greg Kinnear (Gary), Josh Lawson (Kench Allenby), Kristen Wiig (Chani Lastnamé), Bill Kurtis (Narrator).
Anchorman 2, like its predecessor, doesn’t really have much of a plot. What does exist in terms of story is basically a clothesline on which to hang jokes. This is a risky gambit, because many movies that attempt this approach fail miserably and become borderline unwatchable. But luckily for Anchorman – and the audience – it mostly does work in this film. Basically director Adam McKay has cast a group of talented comedic actors, with good chemistry together, and lets them loose on each other. It doesn’t always work, but when it works the film produces more laughs than most other Hollywood comedies.
The film is set in 1980, with Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his wife Veronica (Christina Applegate) living in New York, and being co-anchors on the weekend shift. When the Nightly News Anchor announces he’s going to retire, he has big news for both Ron and Veronica – she’s going to be the new anchor, and he’s fired. Ron gives Veronica an ultimatum – him or the job. She chooses the job, and he heads back to San Diego with his tail between his legs. Months pass, and he is approached by a new network – GNN – who has a crazy idea – a 24 hour news station. They even allow Ron to bring his old team back together again – sports guy Champ (David Koechner), roving reporter Brian (Paul Rudd) and idiot weatherman Brick (Steve Carell). The catch? They’ll have to man the 2-5am shift. In order to garner attention Ron comes up with an idea – he figures no one actually wants to hear the real news – they want to be told America is great and watch car chases. He wants to appeal to idiots – and not surprisingly, they become a hit.
As a director, McKay has never really concerned himself with storytelling. This is his fifth film – following the original Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers and The Other Guys. At his best – like Talladega Nights, he makes what I call smart stupid comedies – comedies that are as goofy and silly and seemingly stupid as anything Adam Sandler would make, but actually funny, and has at least some smart ideas buried beneath all that stupidity. Talladega Nights addressed celebrity obsessed culture, consumerism, and the rise and celebration of stupidity – things addressed in both Anchorman movies as well. At his worst, like Step Brothers, McKay his films really are as stupid as they seem. Anchorman 2 is somewhere between those extremes – it does have something to say about infotainment, but they are easy points to make, and have been for years now. I did kind of admire the film for its sheer bravery it took to essentially call its entire audience idiots – but that only goes so far.
The film is what it is. It does not have the power to surprise us anymore. It basically follows the same formula as the first film – which is that the news team says outrageously idiotic things, while everyone around them look at them not quite believing what they are hearing – and being even more stunned that everyone seems to love them. Everything in the film is a little bit bigger than the first time around – it’s a little louder, a little stupider and is filled with so many celebrity cameos that I lost count early on. Surprisingly though, it all pretty much works. This is not a brilliant movie by any means – but as far as Hollywood comedies goes, this one made me laugh more than most. I don’t think the movie has any greater ambition than that, so I guess on its own limited terms, the film is a success.