Published Dec 18, 2013Will Ferrell's visit to the Olympic curling qualifiers in Winnipeg to ham it up with Vic Rauter indicates how crucial this movie's success is to his career trajectory. Though the original Anchorman was only a modest success at the box office, it has become Ferrell's signature role. Combine that with diminishing returns on his last several movies, and a lingering sense that he is a one-trick pony, and, well, he needs this one.
On the upside, in what is Adam McKay's most stylized film to date, ambitious use of special effects results in some memorable sight gags, and the absurdist aspects have been cranked up, including some intentionally-glitchy editing. Perfect satirical jabs at the crass nature of cable news are also a highlight.
On the downside, there are as many dead spots as laughs, and way too many jokes per minute. It's what Austin Powers 8 might have been like, complete with cameos from nearly every known celebrity including Drake, Kanye West, Will Smith, Jim Carrey, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Sacha Baron Cohen and Harrison Ford.
Steve Carell is at his absolute worst as the implausibly stupid Brick Tamland, and this is not mitigated by an equally-awful Kristen Wiig as his equally-stupid love interest. Wiig, in a performance so poor it's actually fascinating, uses every piece of worn-out schtick from her bag of tricks.
Much of the dialogue seems to have been written, or improvised, with the sole intention of becoming an Internet meme. For example, Christina Applegate's line, "I'll shoot you in the cooter with a B.B. gun" feels like nothing more than a lazy attempt to rehash the original's "I'll punch you in the ovaries."
The film's real undoing is its length of almost two hours. Most scenes are riffs that don't advance the plot, so cutting 30 or even 40 minutes would have made for a tighter, funnier movie. The problem is they've flung everything at the wall to see what sticks. Unfortunately, too much doesn't; rather, it just runs down the wall to pool in an ever-widening puddle of mediocrity.