On an Oscars themed episode of his podcast the B.S. Report Bill Simmons said that he knew he wasn’t going to be on board with a Tom Hanks movie if he saw that Hanks was wearing a mustache in the trailer. (He probably likes the Ladykillers a bit less than I do.) I don’t care whether Will Ferrell has a mustache or not, but I will say this: I am not going to be on board for a Will Ferrell movie if he has more than one scene where he’s shouting. And not shouting for a valid reason, like “I’m being chased by bees”, but because “shouting is funny, right?”
There’s a lot of shouting in this movie. There’s shouting at a rival from across a room, there's shouting racially insensitive things at a restaurant, shouting because of blindness, shouting because scorpions and bowling balls are flying at your face. Oddly, I don’t think there’s shouting during the shark attack. Like I said: a lot of shouting. I'm not sure that all of Ron Burgundy's lines are funny, but they are certainly well enunciated.
Just from that laundry list of shouting scenes you can tell that this movie is all over the place. Of course a movie needs a rivalry; racial insensitivity – well, he is Ron Burgundy; but the blindness was a weird left-turn that didn’t pay off, and the scorpions and the shark are random gags in a movie that can’t quite commit to being completely random or staying on the path. The structure is a mess, which is a real shame, because if some of the more out-there bits had been nestled in the plot a bit better the movie wouldn't have felt completely unnecessary.
Still, if some of the jokes were a little bit out of left field, that at least made sense, because Anchorman 2 is a comedy. What makes less sense is when the movie occasionally veers into serious political commentary. It's critique of the way the modern media functions isn't wrong, nor are they trivial, but it's also weird coming on the heels of scenes that are goofy for goofy's sake. Brick Tamlind is just as preposterously dumb here as he was in the first Anchorman, but that movie told us that venal newscasters and the news they reported were charming; here Brick is still supposed to be charming, but the dumbed down news he makes is supposed to be a national threat. This movie doesn't nail the we're kidding but not all the way tone nearly as well as The Other Guys did.
Anchorman 2 isn't unwatchable. I'm not even sure if it's bad. But it is definitely uneven, and not particularly suited to being watched straight through. Oh, and it's loud. Did I mention all the shouting yet?
Winner: The Cat