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What You're Expecting, But More So: Anchorman 2, Reviewed.

Illustration for article titled What Youre Expecting, But More So: emAnchorman 2/em, Reviewed.

1. When did the tide start to turn on Ron Burgundy? It's a strange thing: Since Will Ferrell introduced his greatest creation in 2004, there has been a relentless drumbeat among the public to bring him back, from cameos on Conan to rampant interview requests to the ultimate point where Ferrell and Paul Rudd and Steve Carell and the rest were basically being asked about Burgundy so often they agreed to make a sequel halfway just to shut people up. Until about a month ago. That's when you started to hear the first grousings. Wow, look, it's Ron Burgundy in yet another commercial. I'm sick of this guy already, and his movie isn't even out yet. The original Anchorman was a cult comedy, but the thing about cult comedies is that they start to feel a lot less cultish when they're used to sell Dodge Durangos. (There is something depressing about such an iconic comedic character being cited in corporate sales reports.) We waited for years for Ron Burgundy to come back, and right around the time he did, we got sick of him.


2. So how much you enjoy Anchorman 2 may depend on how you feel about Ron Burgundy today, right now. If you're starting to think that what you enjoyed so much about the first movie feels dulled now that it has become such a large part of the popular culture, you're probably going to be pretty disappointed by the sequel. But if you still quote Ron Burgundy lines among you and your friends, if you want to see the same jokes as last time, only bigger, you're gonna be just fine. Here's a good rule of thumb: Did you like the second and/or third Austin Powers movies? That's not an exact comparison: This is funnier than those were. But people forget that the first Austin Powers movie was pretty funny, before every idiot you knew started saying "Yeah, baby!" to everybody they ran into. The first Hangover was funny, too, before the second and third movies ruined all the good thoughts you had about that franchise. The second Anchorman movie will remind you how much you liked the first movie. Until, eventually, you forget.

3. The action in Anchorman 2 has been moved to New York City—a common sequel trope—as Ron and his news team join GNN, a new 24-hour cable news channel. They end up working for a boss (Meagan Good) whose character traits are being black and female (allowing the movie to remind us that ironic faux race jokes felt a lot funnier in 2004 than they do in 2013), doing battle with a smug rival anchor (James Marsden) and reinventing the news business. Their method? Deciding that they don't need to cover news, like, news itself, instead following car chases, doing human interest stories on cute puppies and relying on flag-waving hyper patriotism. The joke is clear: Cable news has made everything dumber, and Ron and the gang profit from it. By the end, because the movie needs an arc (I guess), Ron decries empty news and promotes Real Journalism, but the movie makes its point. Some of the jokes end up a little too Wedding Singer-lazy—Brian Fontana says he's gonna go hang out in Los Angeles with OJ Simpson, Phil Spector and Robert Blake in their new pal gang The Ladykillers—but there are enough gags to go around regardless.


4. On the whole, though, the movie just makes sure you get what you're expecting, but more so. Did you like when Ron Burgundy played the jazz flute? Well, now you get that, but also with ice dancing! Brian Fontana's Sex Panther make you laugh? You should see his Famous Condom Shelf! Most of all, you know that Anchor Battle where Brick killed a guy with a trident? Well, there's another one, only much bigger, going on much longer, with even more celebrity cameos, from celebrities even more famous than last time! (It's also plainly obvious that most of the celebrities were never on the set at the same time.) Some of this is funny—a lot of is—but it's also way too long, and ultimately pretty exhausting. The movie's also so slapdash (like the first one, but again, more so) that by the end, you're more dizzy and confused than anything. Why is Ron suddenly blind? Why is there a shark? Wait, he has a kid now? I'm not saying Anchorman 2 needs to have some locked-down tick-tock plot, but at two-plus hours, the movie does start to drag and stumble.

5. There's no need to overthink this: Anchorman 2 has laughs, even if its main character is awfully tired by this point. (It's strange: There really isn't even anything to satirize about Burgundy anymore. We like him too much to want to see his pompousness popped.) For my money, Steve Carell's Brick Tamland character has always gotten the biggest laughs, and he works here again too, particularly as he falls in "love" with an equally, oh, limited woman played by Kristen Wiig. Paul Rudd fares less well; his character has never had much of a hook, and you can seem him straining here. There are still tons of great lines — the key to the Ferrell/Adam McKay aesthetic is that they'll fire jokes in every possible direction; it's inevitable that some will land — but it all just feels a little more labored, a little more straining this time. You might want to still hang out with all these guys for two hours. If so, you'll like it less than you did last time, but you'll be fine. Me, though? I think we've all spent enough time together, thanks.

Grade: C+.

Grierson & Leitch is a regular column about the movies. Follow us on Twitter, @griersonleitch.

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