Who can we blame? The Hangovers ? Police Academies ? Either way, comedy sequels have a reputation for stumbling over the hit-repeat-and-scarper approach to gag-making. Adam McKay and Will Ferrell’s sequel to their 2004 sleeper satire isn’t entirely immune: it often revives old glories with the eagerness of Ron Burgundy guzzling the tipples.
Yet it also sneezes up enough nonsense non-sequiturs, crack-smoking irreverence and hair-based hilarity to tickle anew. Meet The Fockers it most definitely is not.
At the kick-off, McKay juggles the old and the new. Reunited, polyester news prat Ron (Ferrell), blustering redneck Champ (David Koechner), human sex panther Brian (Paul Rudd) and man-child Brick (Steve Carell) are pleasingly un-evolved. The reason for their return is a good one: the redemption of Ron.
And he’s in dire need, after losing his job (sacked by the first of many big-name guest stars), leaves his wife (Christina Applegate) and son, and loses another job at Dolphin World after accusations of touching starfish in a wrong way.
In a fresh twist, his comeback bid is a fish-out-of-water gig at 24-hour news channel GNN in the early ’80s, where James Marsden’s Jack Lime provides oil-slick competition, Meagan Good’s Linda Jackson tests Ron’s racial awareness (spoiler: he isn’t very aware) and serious reportage gives Ron’s rabble a mission: to make news less boring.
‘Boring’ isn’t an option here, but like Burgundy’s voice volume, McKay sometimes let his control slip. The first film’s strike-rate was hit/miss, but it moved so fast you hardly noticed. Here, the legend continues, and continues some more, then over-heats old gags: Ron’s jazz flute, Brian’s cabinet, Champ’s secret love and a mob-handed ruckus all feature, with varying degrees of success.
Without the sense of discovery that made Anchorman a newsflash, the mix of wall-to-wall wackiness and repetition sees diminishing returns creep in. And they diminish some more for an Airplane! -aping jive-talking satire with Linda’s parents, which embarrasses in unintended ways.
Yet there’s more than enough fun elsewhere to offset the losses. Especially when an icy accident (a Blades Of Glory callback) enables Ferrell to flex his improv muscles in an episode involving wanking and sharks (not together). It’s essentially an extended sketch - but taken purely as a giggles-generator, fresh enough to tip the hit/miss ratio in the former’s favour.
Elsewhere, the laughs are well-spread: good ones involve Champ’s recipes and Brick’s agonised flirtation with kindred odd-bod Chani (Kristen Wiig). Before we meet Brick here, he’s presumed dead. But it turns out there’s life in the newsdesk dinosaurs yet.
Bigger and broader than before, Ron’s return occasionally feels like autocue’d sequel-making. But it spikes old news with enough fresh comic zip to keep you hooked through the self-indulgent stretches.