Movie News & Reviews

‘Anchorman 2’ lands with a thud

When TV news veteran Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) first spots a younger, better-looking competitor (James Marsden), he is suitably impressed.

“I bet his poop smells like sandalwood,” Burgundy murmurs.

Perhaps, but all the sandalwood in the world couldn’t cover up the stench of “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” a desperate and unfunny sequel to the 2004 comedy. This movie is so lazy it might as well star Adam Sandler.

Writer/director Adam McKay never settles on whether the movie is a weirdo character romp like his “Step Brothers” or an absurdist satire like “Airplane!” He’s just happy to reunite Burgundy with his San Diego news team: reporter Brian Fantana (KU’s Paul Rudd), sportscaster Champ Kind (MU’s David Koechner) and weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell).

Decked in sideburns and leisure suits, the boys make the jump from the network 1970s to the cable ’80s, when they’re recruited to staff the graveyard shift of the upstart 24-hour Global News Network.

There’s probably a funny movie to be made about news organizations transitioning to being gossipmongers — just as in the uneven original there was a funny seed about women anchors entering the male-dominated work force. But this flick has no interest in being “about” anything. It’s just a rough outline for the talented Ferrell to depict yet another boorish buffoon.

Why bother honing a screenplay when McKay will let everyone improvise his way through any scene? Logic, characterization, structure and forward momentum be damned.

Despite a $50 million budget, “Anchorman 2” only superficially acknowledges its 1980 setting, mainly through a few hairstyle choices on the stars (but not necessarily on the extras). It winkingly weaves in songs by Christopher Cross, Foreigner and the Steve Miller Band, but even these seem like throwing darts at the 101 the Fox play list. (Note to producers: Might want to correct your credits before the DVD release. Steve Miller didn’t write “Jet Airliner.”)

Are there funny bits? Occasionally. Burgundy’s interjections — “By the bedpan of Gene Rayburn!” — elicit chuckles. And there’s a hilarious slow-motion crash where the guys fall victim to the hazardous bric-a-brac in their RV.

These are drowned out by the sheer amount of yelling. (Carell spends most of his screen time making high-pitched noises and spouting non sequiturs.) The actual jokes are often recycled from other blockbusters. Remember when Austin Powers couldn’t stop saying “mole” after seeing the large birth mark on a fellow agent? Here, Burgundy sees that his new boss (Meagan Good) is African-American. “Black, black, black.”

Not only is the joke a rip-off, but now there’s a nasty racial bent to it. Classy.

At least the sequel builds to a huge, ridiculous finish where random big-name guest stars earn a few laughs. The strategy is sound: If Ferrell and McKay don’t want to put much effort into being funny, maybe their famous friends will.