Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

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I bow to no one in my fondness for “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” None of this “it was only so-so at first but got funnier on re-watch” business, either. That’s bush league. I loved it immediately and forever, its scattershot story and slapdash editing easily outweighed by its loopy comic brilliance. Who cares how cobbled-together something is if you’re laughing?

That question is relevant again with the sequel, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” which is often hilarious but also has many stretches of dead air. Once again written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, directed by McKay, heavily improvised by the cast, and edited into a two-hour movie from several hours’ worth of material, the follow-up is even messier than its predecessor was — only this time, it’s not as thoroughly redeemed by quotable dialogue and high-spirited insanity.

Set as the ’70s are giving way to the ’80s, “Anchorman 2” finds married newscasters Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) being split up by professional differences that boil down to Ron being an arrogant baby. When a Rupert Murdoch-like Australian tycoon launches a 24-hour news channel, Ron is given a chance to stage another comeback and reunite with his old team: sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), gonzo reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), and idiotic weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell).

McKay and company recreate or allude to several key moments from the first film (Brian has a collection of condoms to rival his colognes, for example), but they’re shrewd enough not to overdo it. Many of the new ideas are delightfully bizarre, and I admire everyone’s willingness to try unorthodox, potentially offensive comedy scenarios. (They try real satire this time, too, mocking the rise of “give ’em what they want” TV “journalism.”) Sometimes it pays off –there’s a shark; I’ll say no more than that — and sometimes it doesn’t (there’s a dead-end tangent about Ron losing his sight). Ron’s racial awkwardness with his black boss, Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), is so cringeworthy I can’t decide whether it’s hysterical or just excruciating.

But when the movie works, it works as well as the first one did, with well-used cameos and perfectly inane non sequiturs. The last half-hour, especially, is off-the-rails anarchic, as all of the film’s remaining energy comes bursting forth in a dozen different ways. (You thought things escalated quickly last time!) The Burgundy team obviously had a lot of fun creating this messy, rambling sequel — they threw everything at the wall to see what would stick. They ought to have been more selective in the editing process, but still, great story, compelling and rich.

B- (1 hr., 59 min.; PG-13, a fair amount of profanity, one F-word, a lot of crude language, comic violence.)

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