Nine years after starting up his own surreal cult of personality with Anchorman, Ron Burgundy (a hilarious Will Ferrell) is back, brandishing his own warped world view and salon-quality hair (not to mention one hell of a mustache) in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and it’s been well worth the wait. More hit than miss and making the most of a sensational supporting cast, this update on everyone’s favorite news reader and his team of equally talented (?) small-screen seat warmers delivers a belly full of laughs as well as a sly bit of commentary regarding the current state of “legitimate journalism.” While the film often feels scattershot and uneven, it remains one of the best comedies of the year, partly because Ferrell and his collaborator — co-writer/director Adam McKay — know how best to use its bevy of brilliant supporting players. They all understand funny.
Since we last left the San Diego icon, Ron and his now wife Veronica (Christina Applegate) have become famous faces in the Big Apple. Anchoring the network’s weekend coverage, they are up for a gig in prime time thanks to the retirement of the mythic Mack Harken (Harrison Ford). When he picks Veronica over Ron, the couple separates and our lead ends up in a drunken funk ruining the dolphin show as a Sea World MC. Luckily, a 24 hours news network called GNN is looking for available talent, and they hire the pickled egotist on the spot. Ron then runs around the country reclaiming his crew, including clueless sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), smooth ladies man Brian Fontana (Paul Rudd), and the seemingly brain-damaged weatherman Brock Tamland (Steve Carell).
Back in Manhattan, the guys face some major blowback from GNN’s biggest star, a smooth talking head from Chicago named Jack Lime (James Marsden). Ron also has to put up with the odd idea of a sultry African American woman (Meagan Good) being his new boss. After making a bet that he and his team will score higher ratings during the graveyard shift than Lime and his prime time troops, our hero decides to shake things up. Instead of reporting on the news people “need” to hear like their station manager (Dylan Baker) wants, Ron decides to focus on fluff like human interest features, car chases, and cute animals. Suddenly, he’s the hottest thing in NYC. On the downside, Veronica is demanding he become closer to his sensitive son. On the plus, Brock has found a potential soul mate (Kristen Wiig).
If the measure of any good comedy is quantity and quality of laughs, then Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues scores on both counts. While the story is slight and the execution a bit off, the overall result is one of tickled ribs and split sides. Ferrell and his friends are so comfortable in these roles, so secure in their knowledge of how to make them resonate with audiences that all they have to do is show up onscreen and ad lib a bit and we walk away smiling and sated. Would it be nice if the screenplay dug deeper into the dumbing down of the Fourth Estate? Sure. Could we have done without a second-act subplot involving a tragic accident and injury? Perhaps. Does everyone involved make the most of the material they are given? Absolutely, and we couldn’t be happier.
This is especially true of a final-reel face-off between the GNN teams and various “news” sources from around the fledgling cable landscape, including MTV, The History Channel, and the BBC. The cameos come fast and furious, resulting in a need for definite repeat viewing. While it’s not the smartest comedy ever made and won’t win any awards for its lack of tact (as when Ron visits the family of his new minority boss/girlfriend), it is still a stitch. Here’s hoping that this is one legend that lives on for another few films at least.