Anchorman 2 is a terrible, boring, unfunny, racist film

Note: this review was originally published on MetaCritic.com.

‘Anchorman 2’ is stunningly, breathtakingly bad. Not only entirely unoriginal and humorless, this heaving, gasping attempt at a sequel manages to reach transcendent levels of racism and bigotry. In a sense, you could say that Will Ferrell’s comedy has disappeared into a nether-world in which his jokes are so lame and his apparent idea of what’s funny so reactionary that you feel that he must be doing it on purpose: there must be some second-level joke going on, a sort of ironically bad comedy.

Unfortunately, it just is what it looks like: bad, lazy, offensive comedy. ‘Anchorman 2”s jokes overwhelmingly are not jokes; they’re just exaggerated portrayals of stereotypes. The movie is overflowing with saucy Black women with Afros and angry libidos, there’s an extended bit toward the end which basically boils down to “Ha ha, it’s hard to be blind,” and Stever Carell is back with what no one else seems to notice is a *retard routine.* The most painful moment of the film is probably when Ferrell has dinner with the “Black family” of his “Black girlfriend” (his repeated phrasing), where viewers are treated to something like five minutes of Will Ferrell doing paintless Blackface, saying “My man” and “Big mama” and trying to get high fives. But, you know, it’s *ironic*, so it’s not racist. Totally.

Let’s be clear: I am not just whining that a movie violated my moral tastes. It is possible to write racist comedy which is, at least on a technical level, funny. ‘Anchorman 2’ is not bad only because it reduces systemic oppression to a punchline. It’s also just a lazy, empty movie. The gags are just variations on the gags used in the original ‘Anchorman’: because the first film has a special cologne scene, the sequel gets a special condom scene; because the original had a random, surreal battle the sequel also got one (but with a bunch of pointless celebrity cameos). As others have noted, a great deal of the film’s ostensible humor centers on Carrell and Ferrel screaming. Just screaming. ‘Cause it’s funny, evidently.

Rarely have I been so disappointed by a film. I went in expecting something not quite as good as the original but still passably funny. What I got was self-imitating garbage that manages to be casually bigoted and deeply boring at the same time. Save your money, your time, and your dignity. Just say no to ‘Anchorman 2.’

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29 comments

  1. Thank you! Finally a review that totally relates to my feelings about this terrible film I went to see it with my sister and we left 30 minutes in when the stereotypical black women was trying to bang the stupid horrid actor Will Ferrel!

    1. Thanks so much! I’m glad you liked it.

  2. Lauren · · Reply

    Well said, Casey. Thank you for writing this. I’m troubled by the lack of meaningful discourse on racism (and sexism) in this film. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on Wolf of Wall Street as well.

  3. Chris · · Reply

    Have seen Anchorman many, many, many times. This was a bad, bad, bad sequel. The funniest scene was the van wrecking. Wow! It sucked! Shamalan sucked!

  4. The only reason you didn’t like the race scene is because it made something that is usually rhetorical (whites poking fun at black people) clear and open. In OH SO MANY movies/shows these days, whites talk “slang” use little “cool” phrases and a whooole bunch of stuff (such “certain” dance moves) that are clearly taking jabs at Black people (while stealing and replacing people’s culture with the imagination of white people), then when Farrel actually clearly and apparently shows that YES, WHITE PEOPLE ARE (CONSCIOUSLY?) THINKING ABOUT BLACKS IN THIS WAY, the white people get mad because the rhetorical and unspoken is made clear and plain at a fully conscious level. Why don’t you call all these other images of Whites having “oh so much fun” by talking in Black dialect, twerking, calling people “bit*hes” etc .. why don’t you call that racist? Because that’s who you REALLY think Black people are. At least Farrel realizes it’s one great big stereotype. Sickos.

    1. Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for your thoughtful and measured reply. I found your use of all-caps especially persuasive, and you’ve completely changed my mind about Anchorman 2.

      But seriously, though: I think you’re mistaking the icing for the cake. Let’s strip down the dinner scene to its bare-bones. The comedy in this scene is basically built around exaggeration of Black stereotypes, Blackface without the paint. You could run the scene with Ferrel standing alone on a stage and it would essentially work the same way, except that then it would be really obviously racist. So in order to get the comic payoff of Black caricature while still being able to plausibly deny that he’s being racist, Ferrel makes the bit “ironic” by doing it in front of the non-caricature Black family.

      Now, this scene could have been done in a way that actually was ironic and subversive. How? By making the Black family members actual characters. But they’re not; they’re just props for Ferrel, nameless copies of Good Black Folk. Antebellum Blackface acts relied on an exaggerated Black character playing off of a White foil, as for example here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_swtbIi2F0. The dinner scene in Anchorman 2 works in exactly the same way, except that the colors are switched.

      1. la-gravy · ·

        spot on. in fact, i think it goes further than this. – there was a feeling that they tried to make it ok to laugh because in actual fact it was Will Ferrel who was being goofy and the family that were “normal” and not responding to Ferrel’s attempt at black stereotypes – which in actual fact refers to black culture at the time. the “normal” refers to a white norm. the skit is saying – it’s ok to laugh because black people are not really like that, we know. but actually some people were like that and did use those slang words and that is part of an important cultural movement. -the scene seems to totally belittle this.

    2. youwishboys · · Reply

      haha kevin, its all good mate. the movie sucked, just accept it.

  5. Melanie · · Reply

    I just saw Anchorman and you stole the words right out of my mouth. It was an unfunny snooze fest. And Adam McKay (the writer + directer of both Anchorman films) pushed his views on the news too much and tried to make the sequel a serious movie about the news being biased. Which ruined the movie. We were expecting a wacky fun fest. Instead we got Adam McKay’s liberal agenda shoved down our throats.

  6. Mike · · Reply

    racist movie

  7. Super racist, exoticizes the black woman, perpetuates a long list of stereotypes. I was so disappointed that all those respectable actors at the end of the movie would support something so awful.

  8. Michael · · Reply

    I just rented it last night. Your review resonated with my feeling exactly. The jokes did not feel like jokes. They felt mean and deeply seated in the stereotype they were supposed to be mocking. They also managed to completely undermine their goal to show female empowerment. Instead, the viewers got women who only “played at equal rights.” The irony (if there was any to begin with) seemed completely lost in every scene with a woman. Instead I felt like I was watching some “bros” mock a woman for no other reason than being a woman.

    I really enjoyed the first one. I’m still not sure how this one made it into production.

  9. NiggarHanger · · Reply

    Oh shut up. Anchorman 2 was a great movie and it achieved everything it sought out to be. Black people can make racist movies about whites, but god smite the white man for making a joke that’s not even that racist! I’m so tired of blacks with no sense of humor. Many successful black actors were in this movie hell will smith and kanye west were in it and they both played stereotypical 80’s black men and that’s what’s funny.

    1. Luke · · Reply

      Here here. People need to understand why this film is funny and not judge it as a hate film against blacks

  10. I rented it at redbox. TOTAL waste of time. I’m noticing that the classic SNL actors like Ferrel and Sandler have been doing horribly bad movies lately that aren’t funny at all. I won’t pay to see another one of these films.

  11. Luke Roberts · · Reply

    I love the film. Not as good or funny as the first but it had me in hysterics throughout. Ferrell and Carrell especially are extremely funny actors and play their characters brilliantly. The “racism” is all banter and harmless joking around. If they were throwing the N word about I’d totally understand. If you saw the first film and didn’t like it then it’s pointless to see this one. If you have seen the first and it’s one of your favourite movies of the naughties then I highly recommend seeing the sequel.

  12. Bruce Lee · · Reply

    Watched both of the Anchorman’s in one night with mates. The only way i can find these movies funny is if I switch off my brain for an hour or so. Jack Black kicking a dog off a bridge was mildly amusing’ that about it. It just wasn’t funny at all. In fact it was boring. Anchorman is boring.

    Don’t even get me started on the stupid shark thing.

  13. naomi · · Reply

    I’m glad other viewers found this film slightly racist I absolutely loved the first Anchoreman I found it hilarious so I was really looking forward to watching the sequel but as soon as the dinner scene came on I felt so uncomfortable. I couldn’t even straine a smile and even my boyfriend had his hand over his face -it was awful. Why would this strong black women be sleeping with this idiot -ridiculous!! If I wasn’t sitting on the edge on my seat on guard for another black joke I would have enjoyed the film a lot more.

  14. I agree with Mike racist movie!

  15. Anna · · Reply

    Watched this with my white boyfriend. Don’t know who was more uncomfortable – him or me.

  16. Paulie · · Reply

    This film isn’t bad because it’s racist, it’s bad because it’s so unfunny it is agonizing. Nothing will offend my girlfriend and I, but we only lasted about 35 minutes through this train wreck as our toes curled so much it made our soles bleed. Watching Carell and his chick go through their shtick was without doubt the most cringeworthy shit I’ve ever seen on film – both that was only a part of the problem here. Dire, dire stuff.

  17. Paulie · · Reply

    * both = but.

  18. Tory Williams · · Reply

    I didnt bother seeing it because the first one was horrible in my opinion. The first one poked fun of him being sexiest. . Hes supposed to be arrogant and aloof. So the black thing wasnt actual racism ..but were showing how dumb racism is just like sexism. .either way both films are god awful.

  19. MarkC · · Reply

    “Not only entirely unoriginal…”

    I disagree with just about everything you wrote here, but this one statement is simply wrong, rather than a question of opinion. Spoofing 24 hour news and actually making some good points about how this is leading to the dumbing down of mainstream news is actually quite a fresh concept. If you disagree, name some other movies that have taken on 24-hour Fox News type programming in this way.

    1. I agree that the ‘plot’ of criticizing sensationalist cable news has a lot of potential (although that same framework accounts for about half of the Daily Show’s skits). But that ‘plot’ was pretty much irrelevant to the film; it could be removed without changing anything, because AM2 was really just a series of unfunny skits badly imitating scenes from AM1.

  20. thanks for getting it right. there’s a big disconnect between the millions who hate it and Google

  21. you’re completely right. aside from a small spattering of funny one liners early on, it was generally terrible, and the further into its runtime the more it descended into bizarre and pointless nonsense. frequently racist nonsense. mystifying that such a huge cast of talent could have brought themselves to go through with most of it…

  22. Daniel Ballard · · Reply

    Wahhhh wahhhh wahhhh. Go cry somewhere else.

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