As has been proven many times, making a sequel to a beloved comedy is usually a fool’s errand. While Will Ferrell and his writing partner and director, Adam McKay, aren’t always hilarious (even the best comedians bomb sometimes), they’re no fools.
Am I saying “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” is a great comedy? No. But to paraphrase womanizing reporter Brian Fantana from the first film: 60 percent of the time, it’s funny every time.
Doesn’t make sense? Well, then musk up and pay attention.
It’s 1980, seven years after the events of “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” Ron and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are now married, living in New York and co-anchoring the weekend evening news.
But their lives unexpectedly change when legendary newsman Mack Harken (Harrison Ford) summons them to his office. While they believe they’re going to be asked to take over the evening news, only Veronica get the offer, while Ron is fired. Unwilling to take one for the team, Ron gives Veronica an ultimatum: the news, or him. She picks the news, and Ron abandons both Veronica and their 7-year-old son.
What will the great Ron Burgundy do? How about become an alcoholic emcee at SeaWorld, where he sexually harasses the dolphin trainers in front of large audiences filled with small children. But then he gets an offer to join New York-based GNN, the very first 24/7 cable news channel. Ron scoffs at the idea but once money comes into play, he realizes this is his opportunity to get both his career and his family back.
That means it’s time to round up the best news team in the business. As soon as Ron re-unites with sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), who now owns what he claims to be a fried chicken joint, it’s apparent that the chemistry Ferrell and friends displayed in the first film is still there. They go on to recruit reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and Steve Carell’s dim-witted weatherman, Brick Tamland.
We also have a number of new characters. There’s Ron’s new nemesis, Jack Lime (James Marsden), the pinnacle of male perfection — so perfect, in fact, that Ron and anybody else who meets him can’t help but be awestruck in Lime’s presence. Meagan Good impresses as Ron’s African-American boss, Linda Jackson. Burgundy’s predictably ham-handed, chauvinistic reaction to Linda’s ethnicity, power, intelligence and sexuality makes for some of the movie’s funniest moments.
In some places, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” just tries too hard. As fantastic as Kristen Wiig is as a performer, her character here — as Brick Tamland’s love interest — isn’t really necessary, and what really should’ve been a one-scene gag is unnecessarily dragged out. Besides, Brick is a one-man comedy machine who, I believe, could carry his own movie. Speaking of dragged out, Ron’s ascension to stardom and the struggles he endures to get there are funny, but also get a bit long.
Thematically, Ferrell and McKay do a nice job of sending up the 24/7 news cycle and the underlying question of “what is news?” They also deliver a great message: don’t let anything get between you and your family — and that includes Oscar winners, brilliant comedy minds, dead Civil War generals, and a minotaur. Confused? Let’s just say the street battle scene from the first movie gets a serious upgrade here.
With “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” Ferrell and company do a nice job of reining in the desire to outdo the first movie by just letting the characters and jokes organically evolve — mostly. To quote Mr. Fantana again: 60 percent of the time, it works every time.
Three-and-a-half out of five stars.