It's hard for me to write about Anchorman 2, because part of the enjoyment of the film has to do with its surprises. And like the first film, a lot of the comedy is built out of non sequiturs and bizarre connections that fall apart when you try to explain them outside of the context of the movie. By now you probably know the basic premise, that it's about Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his news team moving to New York City and entering the brand-new world of 24-hour cable news. There's a prettyboy anchor named Jack Lime (James Marsden) and a tough new boss (Meagan Good). Like the first movie, the plot is only a vague suggestion to keep the characters running into each other. I can't get too into specifics without ruining some jokes. So the question I'm out to answer is: Will Anchorman 2 make you laugh?
The answer to that question is yes. I'd encourage you to watch it early in its run, with a lively, packed audience. I saw Anchorman 2 at a double feature screening with the first Anchorman last night at SIFF Cinema, in a big theater full of people wearing fake mustaches supplied by SIFF. They were an excited crowd and based on the smell wafting from the young men sitting a few rows in front of me, some of them were under the influence of mind-altering drugs. They laughed a lot, and so did I. I'm sure I found the movie funnier than I would've if I watched it alone, or in a room full of dour critics, so my opinion may have been influenced by my viewing environment. But I still think that for a comedy sequel, Anchorman 2 is pretty damn good.
Anchorman 2 isn't as funny as the first Anchorman. At least, it's not as evenly funny as the first Anchorman, although there are a couple of scenes that had me laughing harder and longer than I did at any one scene in the first movie. On the other hand, there were a lot more boring sequences, too. You've already met these characters, and they haven't really changed at all: David Koechner plays the loud-mouthed idiot, Paul Rudd plays the semi-suave idiot, and Steve Carell plays Brick Tamland, the idiot's idiot. Screenwriters Ferrell and Adam McKay seem to understand that Carell was the first Anchorman's secret comedy weapon, and so they've given him a full-blown subplot this time around. A little bit of Brick goes a long way, but Carell again coaxes more laughs out of the audience than any other actor in the movie except for Ferrell.
Thankfully, there's not a whole lot of returning to the same comedy well this time around. The story touches on some of the same elements as the first movie—scary animal attacks, a cabinet full of manly accoutrements—but it doesn't revisit the same punchlines as in the first film. There's even an attempt at a whole different type of comedy in Anchorman 2: Satire. And even though 24-hour cable news is an impossibly easy target, I can't imagine Wolf Blitzer, Mika Brzezinski, or Anderson Cooper watching this movie without squirming in their seats, which means the satire feels effective.
The bad news is that Adam McKay's direction is still aggressively bad, with bland visuals, varying levels of quality control—in one diner scene, an extra in the background just stares directly at the camera for an uncomfortable amount of time, distracting from the action happening in the front of the shot—and flabby scenes that go on for way too long. A better director could've kept the movie from dragging to a standstill on two or three occasions. The thing is, though, Anchorman 2 is basically bad-director-proof, since so much of it is made up of improvisation and comedians who know their stuff and a conga line of most of the best comedy actors in the business dropping by for cameos. So any complaints you have about Anchorman 2 just roll off the movie's back. A kid could've filmed and edited this movie on an iPhone and you'd still laugh at it; that's Anchorman 2's blessing and its curse.