“Let’s not downplay the fact that that is Stonewall Jackson’s ghost right there.”
Justin’s rating: I freely admit that I would actually try fried bat. Even if it is all tendon.
Justin’s review: I always got the feeling nobody — even the stars — really expected 2004’s Anchorman to blow up into a surprise hit the way it did. People just loved and quoted the heck out of that satire of old style news journalism, and Paramount scrambled to slap together a whole bunch of cut scenes and sell it as The Lost Movie. That tells me how unprepared the suits were that this was going to be a movie worthy of a sequel.
But what I think is even more surprising than Anchorman’s initial success is that a sequel ever got greenlit while retaining all of its cast. After all, we’re talking about Will Farrell, Steve Carrell, and Paul Rudd (all members of the “Double Letters in Our Name Club”), who by 2013 were all insanely successful stars commanding high salaries. Yet I guess everyone really loved the idea of coming back together to goof off in these roles, because Anchorman 2 actually happened — and I’m happy to report that it’s just as gut-bustingly funny as the first.
Following a nasty falling out with his wife Veronica (Christina Applegate) in the early 1980s, the vainglorious Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) flees back to the west coast to live in shame. It’s there that he’s approached by a manager of a new type of “24 hour” news network and asked to come on board as its anchor. Ron assembles his old crew to help him with this task: loose cannon Champ (David Koechner), dumb-as-a-brick Brick (Carrell), and suave photographer Brian (Rudd).
But according to comedy sequel laws, our victorious heroes from the first movie must be dashed down onto the rocks of despair in the second (in order to ascend once more). Ron and company find themselves doing the graveyard shift at the new GNN, third-string to Jack Lime (James Marsden) and his entourage. Everyone’s struggling to figure out how to keep the news cycle going around the clock until Ron has an amazing idea: Instead of telling people what they need to hear, the anchors should tell them what they want to hear. That unlocks a Pandora’s Box of trouble (and not-so-subtle satire aimed at channels like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News), but it also makes GNN a ratings juggernaut as the team sells out the news for sensationalism.
However, don’t mistake the main plot as being anything you really need to track here. This film is nothing more or less than a domino construct of absurdly comical scenes that play out one after the other. Perhaps the best running thread is a budding romance between Brick and Chani (Kristen Wiig), both of whom are so hilariously dumb that they were made for each other. Or, more likely, written for each other. I kid you not, I can’t remember the last time I wanted two characters to end up together as fiercely as I did these two.
It’s not all pure comedy gold, of course. With the crew here trying to get a laugh out of wildly unreasonable moments, at times they dip into wildly inappropriate territory and it flips from being funny to being cringy. There’s one dinner scene in particular that I was cringing so hard that I got a cramp in my forehead. My forehead. I didn’t think that was possible, but here we are.
Happily, most of it is really silly, leading up to possibly the greatest scene in cinematic history: The Second Battle of the News Teams. Out of nowhere in a park, different news squads show up, each more ridiculous than the last and sporting high-profile celebrities like Liam Neeson, Jim Carrey, Tina Fey, Kanye West, and Amy Poehler. Harrison Ford turns into a werewolf. Brick gets a gun from the future. The ghost of Stonewall Jackson appears. The History Channel brings a minotaur. Gary shows off his mind powers. Will Smith calls in a tactical air strike. Every new thing trumps the last thing, and even if this was the only good thing in the movie (and it isn’t), it would be worth the full price of admission.
Whether or not you care about the flimsy plot, the true joy of Anchorman 2 is in watching these incredibly talented comedians try to one-up each other with their ridiculous performances and non sequitur quotes. After nearly two hours of laughing myself silly, I’m only left with one regret: that it took me eight years to actually watch this.