By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin December 18, 2013 at 12:00AM
I can’t say I was looking forward to this film, as I wasn’t a fan of the original, whose reputation has grown exponentially over the past decade. I happen to think Anchorman 2 is better than the original, which was too self-satisfied to suit my taste. That may not be a tremendous compliment, but at a time when so many comedies try to push the boundary lines of raunchiness as far as they can, this one deals in another, much rarer, commodity: sheer silliness.
Will Ferrell again plays the affable dunderhead Ron Burgundy, who gets a chance to reunite his onetime San Diego news team: Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, and David Koechner. To call them clueless is a mild understatement, yet they have a curious knack for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Just don’t ask them how they did it.
The time is the 1980s, when Burgundy and crew get to revive their careers as part of a daring experiment: a 24-hour news channel, bankrolled by an Aussie industrialist and run by a no-nonsense producer (Meagan Good) who is unimpressed with her bungling anchorman until he starts generating high ratings.
There’s no point going into finer details of the plot; it’s just an excuse for a number of farcical scenes and tangents. Some gags and conceits pay off better than others: Ferrell and his writing partner Adam McKay (who also directed the picture) are overly fond of non-sequiturs and jokes that depend on attitude more than actual humor. Carell’s character is especially odd, just for the sake of oddity; he meets his match in Kristen Wiig, and their scenes together are more strange than funny.
Despite the fact that no one can keep a secret anymore—especially not online—I won’t discuss the many cameo appearances that add to the fun, especially in the finale. Surprise is a key element here.
Anchorman 2 is not my preferred brand of comedy, but I found it surprisingly watchable, with enough funny moments to justify this long-delayed sequel. In a season laden with serious films, this is a timely piece of counterprogramming.