Believe it or not, the best joke in this movie is topical. The whole of Anchorman 2 constitutes a just affront to how television news got so bad. Rather than the mere condescending tweak of 1970s local news that the first film attempted, the sequel actually tries to score satiric points. Of course, the whole movie’s flocked with jokes calibrated for stoner-quality quoting, particularly from Brick, Steve Carell’s Zen-like idiot weatherman (“I have no legs,” he screams watching himself on a green screen). There’s also the long shaggy dog gags, like a van set on cruise control filled with bowling balls, hot grease, and scorpions, which provides fine surrealistic moments even when anticipated miles away. Yet what shticks with you is how right on the film gets the world of contemporary cable and broadcast news, even in an era when Jon Stewart drubs television journalism with regular wounding acuity.
Our story opens as Burgundy’s relationship with co-anchor and former foe Veronica Corningstone collapses after she’s promoted. Bereft and vindictive, Burgundy is about to give up completely when he’s approached to host the graveyard desk of a brand new concept: a 24-hour news channel. Though Burgundy initially (rightly) mocks the whole idea, he converts when shown his first paycheck. Then (genius stroke) it turns out his brash idiocy equips him superbly for the brave new news world. And this is just a broad outline; the deviltry is in the details.
You might argue that this film is considerably less inspired than the original, but don’t forget it took a few years for Anchorman to develop a cult base through the haze of late-night baked potato screenings. Like The Big Lebowski, it seemed dumb until people got it. This one has a gratuitous shark musical number, a child of baffling grace and deep-fried bats. Just because Ferrell and his partner Adam McKay seem to have a little agenda doesn’t mean they’ve abandoned the low ground. There are plenty of mindless pleasures here — and designer condoms, too.