'Anchorman 2' proves news is no laughing matter

The Fresno BeeDecember 18, 2013 

This just in: There's not a lot of good news for "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues."

Like the proverbial pony supposedly buried under a mountain of manure, there are some funny comedy moments to this sequel that was almost a decade in the making. The only problem is getting through all of that stinky material to find the gems.

Will Ferrell reprises his role as the socially inept, emotionally awkward, journalistically impaired news anchor Ron Burgundy. Through a series of relatively bland events, Burgundy finds himself working at the first 24-hour news channel. The idea sounds absurd to him but the money and fame are too much to turn down.

He reassembles his news team, which includes the ever forgettable Paul Rudd as investigative journalist Brian Fantana, the hit-and-miss Steve Carell as weatherman Brick Tamland and the always annoying David Koechner as sports anchor Champ Kind.

The script by Ferrell and director Adam McKay offers some funny ideas about the state of television news. Burgundy and his team find success by deviating from the norm of real journalism to focus on the trite, sensational, absurd and cute. There might be some heated political battles going on in Washington, D.C., but it can all be cured by video of a puppy running through a field of American flags.

Even the introduction of the airing of an endless car chase is a commentary about how far a 24-hour news channel will go to fill the hours. And, the movie ends with a star-studded battle that points a very serious finger at the proliferation of news outlets on television. This international anchors tussle is almost enough to save the movie. Almost.

But for every clever joke, like Fantana wanting to go back to Los Angeles to hang with the group of buddies who call themselves "Ladykillers" (O.J. Simpson, Phil Spector and Robert Blake), there's a moment where Ferrell seems to believe all he has to do is mug to the camera in a pale rip-off of his own impersonation of Robert Goulet from his "Saturday Night Live" days.

What rips the film apart is the comic execution — or lack of it. Ferrell and his mirthless band of comics have all bought into the idea that shouting a joke makes it better. They must think there's some magical element in the cranked up volume that makes a person say, "Why that racist material isn't as offensive as we thought because Burgundy said it loudly."

Shout this: Louder isn't funnier.

Carell's an equal audio offender. His character is supposed to be a few millibars short of a warm front but the continued dependence on Brick lapsing into unexplainable babble and bouts of tears becomes painful to watch. Add in an equally uninspired performance by Kristen Wigg as Brick's new love interest and whatever humor that lies below the surface of this dung heap of comedy gets buried even deeper.

Early in the movie, when Burgundy has been reduced to being a Sea World host, a young girl shouts "Children and animals hate you Ron Burgundy." That's wrong little girl. It's children, animals and at least one film critic when it comes to this overdone sequel.

Movie review

"Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues," rated PG-13 for language, adult situations. Stars Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner. Directed by Adam McKay. Running time: 1 hour, 59 minutes. Grade: D

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TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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