★★★★☆Back in the summer of 2004, a pair of rival US comedies arrived at the box office within just two weeks of each other. The first was Dodgeball, which starred the comedy giants of the day and quickly became widely-quoted. The second was Anchorman. Almost an entire decade later, it's difficult to recall a time when Adam McKay's picture was an also-ran trailing in Dodgeball's wake. And yet, while the memory of Rawson Marshall Thurber's underdog story has faded, Anchorman has gradually grown stratospheric. So many of its lines have now become part of the cinematic lexicon - a word-of-mouth cult hit writ large.
With the patchy track record of comedy sequels and the diminishing returns of the McKay/Ferrell canon, not to mention the decade gap since the original, Anchorman 2 could easily have been a disaster. But, like Steve Coogan with Alan Partridge, Ferrell appears to have an innate understanding of what makes Ron Burgundy tick. The character feels consistent ten years on, and the actor finds a wealth of comic dividends in Burgundy's ignorance and inflated self-belief. The lines are terrific, following the same surrealist flights of fancy as its predecessor. Crucially, Anchorman 2 keeps fan service to an acceptable level. There are myriad nods of acknowledgement to certain key moments that made the original work, but it steers clear of lame retreads.
What's perhaps most surprising about McKay's Anchorman 2, however, is its unexpected satirical edge. The film posits Burgundy as the symbolic death of real news, hilariously tackling the vagaries of 24-hour news, with speculation and politicisation filling the gaps between events. Oddly enough, the jovial, upbeat tone and broad-brush pot-shots are rather refreshing and a welcome contrast to the pious, Guardianista nature of a swathe of modern media criticism. It's hardly Network (1976) or Broadcast News (1987), but the satire does work on its own terms and is a welcome addition to the frantic zaniness that 'Anchorfans' have become so accustomed to.