By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — This just in: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is just as funny as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.
The followup passes the same ultimate test that its predecessor did:
Is it funny? The answer is a resounding yes.
So even if this nearly-a-decade-later sequel comes up a bit short on all the other tests that we might apply -– logic, consistency, depth, credibility, cohesiveness, and originality, to name a few — we’re not complaining.
This anything-for-a-guffaw comedy has a lot of anything going for it and we have a lot of laughing to do at its celebration of ludicrousness and absurdity.
Will Ferrell returns as mustachioed, emptyheaded, narcissistic news anchor Ron Burgundy, whose signature ’70s signoff was to implore his home market to “Stay classy, San Diego.”
He anchors this raucous comedy by imposing his Will on the material and his pompous title character, and making us enjoy his shallowness, pettiness, cluelessness, and political incorrectness as if they were spectator sports.
Burgundy and his on-air cohorts -– Steve Carell as dimwitted weathercaster Brick Tamland, Paul Rudd as sleazy field reporter Brian Fantana, and David Koechner as loudmouthed sportscaster Champ Kind — have lost their TV gig and gone their separate ways over the last few years.
But in the early ’80s, Burgundy is married to co-anchor Veronica Corningstone, played once again by Christina Applegate, who is prospering as a pioneer female TV news anchor.
In fact, when Ron is pink-slipped by a veteran newsman (Harrison Ford), she’s promoted to solo anchor, which leads to the couple’s happy-never-after split.
So Burgundy finds himself working at Sea World as an announcer for the dolphin show when he is contacted by a new 24-hour news channel in New York, the Global News Network, and invited to join the around-the-clock cable news landscape.
That’s when he rounds up the old gang and we get escorted on the film’s nearly plotless but very funny way.
Director and frequent Will Ferrell collaborator Adam McKay (Anchorman, The Other Guys, Step Brothers, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby), who co-wrote the quotable original with Ferrell and does so again here, co-produces with Ferrell and Judd Apatow, keeping things loose and preposterous, and allowing his skilled principals to do their share of improvising.
They reward him –- especially the scene-stealing Carell — with contributions that are always at least amusing and frequently laugh-out-loud hilarious, in the film’s generous, stimulating mix of one-liners and sight gags.
The film even manages, without getting too preachy or solemn about it, to hold a fractured mirror up to today’s problematic media climate and to comment satirically on the tendency for contemporary news outlets to wax fluffy, giving readers, viewers, and listeners what they want rather than what they need.
McKay, effectively exploiting the goodwill produced by his 2004 cult hit, gives the audiences what it craves from the first film with a slew of surprisingly and supremely silly celebrity cameos, and includes in his supporting cast Kristen Wiig as Brick’s romantic interest, James Marsden as Ron’s handsome rival, and Meagan Good as the team’s boss.
And a word about the extended promotional blizzard that has preceded the film’s release: with Ferrell and his castmates turning up just about everywhere for appearances, stunts, and gags that call the film to the world’s attention, it might seem on the surface an act of desperation and a substitute for cinematic quality. But it turns out (will wonders never cease?) that that’s not the case.
So we’ll broadcast 3 stars out of 4 for the broad, surreal Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, in which, we’re happy to report, the laughs continue.
The sequel may not stay classy, but it sure stays funny. Here’s hoping it won’t be nine more years until the third installment drops anchor.