A sequel is never going to be shorter than the original; otherwise it will seem like a cash grab. Anchorman 2 is louder, sillier and vastly more absurd than its now cult predecessor, but it's also longer, so when those less successful sequences miss the mark it feels like there are yawning chasms between laughs instead of beats.
Ron (Ferrell) is fired from the national news team and his co-anchor Veronica (Christina Applegate) is given a shot as the sole female anchor in primetime. In the resulting fallout he's offered the chance to become a part of a new 24 hour news network, run by an Australian media mogul (Josh Lawson), and says he'll only do it if he can reform his winning San Diego news team (Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner).
When Anchorman 2 works it's thanks to McKay and Ferrell's sabre like satirical reimagining of the emergence of modern news and the death of mythical 'Murrow' journalism. Ron slots so perfectly into the stupidity and inanity of 'info-tainment' that while he and the team experiment with crack on air or blatantly pander to the patriotic impulses of the audience you'll be howling. But Anchorman isn't just about the news it’s about injections of random absurdity (the news team smack-down, Jack Black's hobo throwing Baxter off of a bridge) to break-up the thread bare narrative arc and longer running time means more doses of distraction. While the original Anchorman's random comedic gems felt original, Ferrell and McKay are copy and pasting elements of their own work to pad out the running time. When Ron's getting feverishly patriotic, you can't help but hear the echo of Jackie Moon (Semi Pro) or Ricky Bobby (Talladega Nights) and their barrage of 'MERICA'; or when Ron dons ice skates the ghost of a tight fitting sequinned one-zee's of Blades of Glory past come flashing into mind.
Ferrell is at his best behind the desk with Ron. Forget the shark rearing, spout of blindness, bad relationship with his son nonsense — the improvisational whip timing that Ferrell possesses is just magic at any moment he's recounting the day's news or interacting with his co-anchors/team.
Carrell is completely off the reservation as Brick, taking his craziness to new heights. Koechner's Champ as slipped into the infantile and may as well be a pull string for his catch cry. Rudd's Fantana really shines in support because he gets to play the playboy that his flowing locks and ridiculous moustache denote. Outside of the original quartet the most memorable single character has to be Kristen Wiig's she-Brick. Wiig gets to bring the same spazz that Carrell's been bringing for two films and watching their interaction is like the perfect storm of silly. Make no mistake, there's a cameo 'thunderdome' awaiting you in this film that does make your brain explode.
Satire, slapstick, a cameo carousel; Anchorman 2 is stacked with potential hilarity. Unfortunately the wild barrage didn't connect to affect a comedic knockout; instead it burned hot early and limped to the finish.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.