Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (Paramount Pictures, PG-13)

Anchorman-2 75The punch lines, the wacky set pieces, the celebrity cameos, etc. come so fast and so loud that you feel like you might die from overstimulation.

Anchorman-2 500

Adam McKay and Will Ferrell can obviously tell that they have something to live up to with their script for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues; of course, this is obvious to just about everyone in America, given the enduring popularity of the original, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. But even if that weren’t the case, it would be obvious from watching Anchorman 2 — the punch lines, the wacky set pieces, the celebrity cameos, etc. come so fast and so loud that you feel like you might die from overstimulation. There are so many conspicuous laugh lines that at least some are bound to fall flat, and some of them do, but the batting average here is surprisingly high — while perhaps not the best big, dumb Hollywood comedy of the year (that award goes to This is the End), Anchorman 2 is a satisfyingly funny pile of gibberish that has been vaguely molded into something resembling a film.

As stupid-funny as Anchorman 2 is, it does still manage some halfway intelligent satirical jabs at life in the modern world, despite being set in 1980. Here the plot concerns Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell, who surely realizes that this is and forever will be his most celebrated film role) as he gets fired from his anchorman job at the same time that his wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), gets promoted to a plum gig as a primetime anchor, a first for a woman of the era. Soon after, Ron is scouted by a cable producer (Dylan Baker, who many may mistake for Ed Helms in aviators) to appear on a new, 24-hour news cable channel named GNN. And so Ron inevitably reunites his team, including sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell, reprising a role that helped rocket him to huge popularity), and reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd). Once they get to GNN and begin their broadcasting, some not-so-subtle jabs start coming at the 24-hour news cycle, the quality (or lack thereof) of modern news, Fox News, soft news, and just about anything else that is “news” related.

Anchorman 2 is a big, sprawling movie, which, like the frequency of its punch lines, both works in its benefit and doesn’t. At 119 minutes, it’s a fair amount longer than the original’s brisk 98, and a lot of that excess feels like bloat and lack of discipline. Still, it also allows for a whole ton of celebrity cameos, a lot of which are funny and most of which are best left to the element of surprise. Outside of the cameo range we have larger new characters like Chani (Kristen Wiig, playing a role that seems to have either been written for or based loosely on Miranda July), who is a love interest for Brick, and Walter (Judah Nelson), Ron and Veronica’s six-year-old son. And while it may be tactless for me to single out a young boy to complain about, Nelson is really a pox on this film — he’s not convincing, funny, sympathetic, cute, or just about anything else the movie wants or needs him to be, and very nearly every scene he appears in (which is a lot) is dead weight that drags the movie down.

But really, this is Ron Burgundy’s movie (how could it not be?), and as such, it can’t help but be funny most of the time. One odd thing is that the original Anchorman was at its funniest when Ron was hitting rock bottom, and the worse off he was, the funnier the film got. Anchorman 2 is the opposite — the more success Ron finds, the more enjoyable the movie is, and when he falls on hard times the movie tends to go into a lull. Thankfully, Ron Burgundy has never been down for long and has never had too much trouble finding success. | Pete Timmermann

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