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Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

(2013) ** 1/2 Pg-13
119 min. Paramount Pictures. Director: Adam McKay. Cast: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Paul Rudd, Kristen Wiig, Meagan Good, Dylan Baker, Harrison Ford.

/content/films/4626/1.jpgRemember Ghostbusters 2? That sequel has a reputation for being a big letdown, though it’s actually pretty funny. The main sticking point with Ghostbusters 2 is the ending, a conspicuous failure of imagination that operates on that hoary sequel principle that you want the same thing you liked the first time, but more. I give you Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

Inappropriate anchorman Ron Burgundy is back, and he’s still failing upwards. Will Ferrell returns in his best role, and just like Ron, he’s surrounded by his team: David Koechner as “dangerous alcoholic…[and] racist” Champ Kind (“Whammy!”), Paul Rudd as sorta-suave sports reporter Brian Fantana, and Steve Carell as ape-like, low-IQ weatherman Brick Tamland. As before, part of the joke is looking back in laughter at period fashions and outdated mores. The sequel takes place in 1980, with the launch of twenty-four-hour news channel Global News Network standing in for the journalistic revolution that was CNN.

Ferrell and co-writer/director Adam McKay have always made a good team, and they don’t try to reinvent the wheel here. Their groove is absurd hyperbole, everything pitched strident and loud (“By the hymen of Olivia Newton-John!” Ron exclaims) to the point of being a live-action cartoon. The style fits well in this Anchorman universe, though at times what’s uproarious one minute becomes shrill the next, and the joke of the not-so-fresh Anchorman concept, now almost a decade old, wears substantially as the sequel approaches its two-hour mark.

That’s largely underscored by the sequel’s climax, a creative disappointment that nevertheless may prove a crowd pleaser by packing in celebrity cameos. Still, just as Ron Burgundy is the newsman we deserve, Anchorman 2 is the sequel fans have been clamoring for, and there’s definitely fun to be had as Burgundy adjusts to having a black woman (Meagan Good’s GNN exec Linda Jackson) for a boss even as he navigates rocky times with wife Veronica Corningstone-Burgundy (Christina Applegate) and seven-year-old son Walter (Judah Nelson), a surprisingly strong comic foil for Ron.

With the possible exception of Oscar-contending Best Original Song “Doby,” nothing here approaches the delightful surprise of the first film’s “Afternoon Delight” harmony break or sudden appearance of a trident. Instead we get Kristen Wiig as, essentially, a female Brick (his love interest) and Fantana revealing his “world-famous jimmy cabinet” as a complement to his Sex Panther cologne. Though it takes up relatively little screen time, the news satire connects, with Burgundy a sort of news savant by ‘80s standards as he invents filling the twenty-four-hour-news cycle with puff pieces.

McKay leans on now-comical pop music to spackle the cracks. I’ll admit it, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues had me at “Ride Like the Wind.” But by “Shilo,” I was not so sure.

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