Much like the first Anchorman, or any number of W.C. Fields or Marx Brothers films, Anchorman 2 is not particularly concerned with a plot. Although some will be convinced that the film is far deeper than it is, what with the Network style breakdowns and the Australian news mogul who might as well be named Blupert Rurdoch. But it’s really not – it’s a connection of loose sketches that lead nowhere.
But the end result is still so funny that I’m wiling to forgive pretty much all of its flaws. The film is exactly what it says in the title. It’s a sequel to Anchorman and doesn’t pretend to be anything else for a moment, even with the pot-shots at modern cable news. This is a film in which a man bottle feeds a shark and in which another man feels bats should be known as “chicken of the caves.” Comedies like Nebraska are far smarter, but I heard more laughter watching Anchorman.
I can barely believe that the first film is ten years old. Then again, it’s a film that seems almost timeless. For better or for worse, it has become a sort of cultural touch stone for millenials that has led to many drunken renditions of “Afternoon Delight.” I am not sure if Anchorman 2 will create the same response, but it still comes as a very welcome surprise.
Burgundy, at the start of the film, has hit rock bottom. He is fired from his evening news job, ends up barely slurring his speeches introducing a SeaWorld show, attempts to hang himself from a light fixture only to have his weight bring the ceiling down, and his trusted news team scatters to new ventures. He gets a job offer at a new 24 hour news station, where he and his team are put in a two AM time slot. And somehow he claws his way back to glory through ways that Glenn Beck’s audience will understand. There are some great satirical moments in which Burgundy creates news from scratch in order to entertain his audiences, much like the wild speculation that surrounds any modern news report. Even a moment where Ron smokes crack on live TV echoes Dan Rather’s shooting heroin to report its effects.
But again, I must emphasize that the plot of the film is secondary to Ron Burgundy acting foolish. There are plot points that are quickly dropped from the film, characters change their entire attitudes on a whim, and the act structure would leave Stanley Kubrick shaking his head in disbelief. It’s the same sort of thing I have killed comedies for. So why am I giving Anchorman a pass?
I dunno. Maybe it’s because I find the characters so irresistibly charming comic creations. Each of the actors seems to be having the time of their lives portraying these shallow creatures. They also seem wiling to explore the limits of their characters. Even Burgundy does not come across as someone who is dumb for the sake of being dumb. He is so blissfully unaware of what he should be doing but does not feel it is necessary to change. Much of his comedy comes from the fact he is so unwilling to break his fantasy, no matter what people tell him. This includes his trying to be dissuaded from building race relations that end up causing more problems (the dinner scene lines in the finished film are quite different from the lines from the trailer) but he is still so hopelessly convinced that he is doing right.
But my favorite scenes in both films involve Brick, played by Steve Carrell. As was explained in the first film, Brick has a very low IQ. It leads him to say and do stupid things, such as acting frightened of green screens. It would be a silly set up in a lesser comedy. But Carrell also comes across as so hopelessly sweet and honest. His scenes in this film with Kristen Wiig’s Chani demonstrate that. Their dialogue is bad,yes, but their delivery is perfect right down to Carell’s Hulot-esque bow while trying to woo his love.
This review is a little shorter than normal because there isn’t really anything of depth to examine. Still, I had a lot of fun at Anchorman 2. The first film helped encourage comedies to re-examine what was funny and what made people laugh. I hope the second film causes a similar reaction, to spare us another Grown Ups sequel.