Follow the Entertainment section on Facebook!
Movies Now

Review: In 'Anchorman 2,' the classy-or-not gags continue

Every time I see Ron Burgundy, a.k.a. Will Ferrell, hawking Dodge Durangos on TV — which seems like a million times a day — what strikes me is how brilliant the "Anchorman" conceit is in small bits. The carefully manicured hair, the flashy suits, all just window dressing for that marvelously bloated ego, the absurd made irresistible in 60-second increments.

That, I'd suggest, should be the recommended dosage.

At nearly two hours, the nonsense of Ron and the news game, which Ferrell and co-writer and director Adam McKay skewered so effectively in 2004, is harder to sustain the second time around. "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues," does continue the legend of the original "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy."

PHOTOS: Billion-dollar movie club

But the reality that Ron Burgundy did indeed become a legend is part of the film's difficulty. Waiting nearly a decade before the sequel came allowed time for "Anchorman" to reach cult status — "stay classy" joined the lexicon of the knowingly sarcastic. So revered is the original, the film's legions of fans have likely watched it about as many times as I've seen those Dodge ads. Between the history and the hype, expectations are high for a Burgundy redux to deliver.

That presents its own set of challenges. A comedy sequel always carries the risk that the joke was stretched to the limits in the first. We did not, for example, need another slice of "American Pie," anymore than we needed a "Hangover 2" or "3," a clear case of overindulging.

While I'm glad "Anchorman" is back — we need a little levity in this year of heavy films — I do wish it were better. With so many sight gags and nearly every living comic in the world making an appearance at some point, the entire operation, like Ron's ego, feels a bit bloated.

PHOTOS: Celebrities by The Times

Still, "Anchorman 2" has its distinct pleasures, chief among them its characters. And chief among its characters is Steve Carell. Back as the mentally challenged weathercaster Brick, his scenes are hysterically saturated with the eternal sunshine of a spotless mind. Double the fun when Kristen Wiig's socially inept Chani enters the picture. Together they create some of the strangest romantic chemistry the big screen has seen in a while — maybe ever.

As the legend picks up, Ron and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are married with a young son named Walter (Cronkite?). The former competitors have joined forces, co-anchoring a weekend network newscast in New York. They are happy enough, but pining for prime time.

A series of unfortunate events align to split up the couple — on air and off. It begins when she gets that prime-time spot and he does not — the good news/bad news delivered in a very funny cameo by Harrison Ford. Veronica's success is more than Ron can stomach so it's back to San Diego for the fallen star.

PHOTOS: Greatest box office flops

Besides, there had to be some excuse to send Ron on a downward spiral — wedded bliss and career satisfaction don't suit him. It also allows the filmmakers to reunite the anchorman with his former news team: correspondent Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner) and Brick.

Like an incredibly slow windup, "Anchorman 2" spends a lot of time getting us caught up on their lives; basically some are better off than others. These segments struggle for traction and Ron's job as an emcee at SeaWorld has drawn sharp criticism from real-world animal rights activists who see absolutely nothing funny in the captivity of killer whales (see the documentary "Blackfish" for a very good recap of the issues).

Rescuing Ron from San Diego, and us from a dearth of the solid silly nonsense we expect from "Anchorman," is the very dry Dylan Baker. As Freddie Shapp, a TV producer trying to sell Ron on the idea of a 24-hour cable news operation, you can tell if the TV gig doesn't pan out he's got a future in used cars.

On the set: movies and TV

With the plasticized all-news-all-the-time culture in the film's sights, the fun begins in earnest. Burgundy has a new nemesis in Jack Lime (James Marsden). Though it hardly seems possible, Lime has better hair than Ron. And he may not understand what is actually going on in the world, but he's a smooth news reader and he knows exactly when to flash that megawatt smile. Marsden is a crack-up in the role.

The competition to keep up ratings and newsroom infighting provides a good setup for many of the best jokes. The birth of the slow-speed car chase during Ron's watch is a hoot. The funniest gag involves Brick, but to say more would be to spoil the fun.

There are a few bizarre detours that seem contrived to allow the filmmakers to keep a gag they loved but couldn't quite figure out how to make it fit. One involves blindness and a lighthouse and is actually hilarious. But at times like this, it feels as if the concept has outrun the comedy and "Anchorman 2" stops making sense.



'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues'

MPAA rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, drug use, language and comic violence

Running time: 1 hour, 59 minutes

Playing: In general release

PHOTOS AND MORE PHOTOS: Faces to watch 2014 | Movies ENVELOPE: The latest awards buzz DOCUMENTARIES: 10 best of 2013, and a new crop in 2014      

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Will Ferrell co-anchors Bismarck local news as Ron Burgundy

    Will Ferrell co-anchors Bismarck local news as Ron Burgundy

    Will Ferrell's promotional tour for "Anchorman 2" has taken some unusual directions, including in-character appearances on "Conan" and a series of ads for Dodge Durango, but his strangest to date happened Saturday night in Bismarck, N.D., when Ferrell co-anchored the evening news on CBS affiliate...

  • Will Ferrell's 'Anchorman 2' bumped up to Dec. 18

    Will Ferrell's 'Anchorman 2' bumped up to Dec. 18

    Ron Burgundy wants us to stay classy -- and wants himself to be early. "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues," the sequel to the comedy hit of about a decade ago, will have its release date moved up two days to Dec. 18, Paramount Pictures said Tuesday.

  • Will Ferrell, Judd Apatow and pals stay classy at 'Anchorman' reading

    Will Ferrell, Judd Apatow and pals stay classy at 'Anchorman' reading

    By the beard of Zeus! The main cast of the 2004 film “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” took to the stage in Santa Monica on Thursday night for a reading of the screenplay as a benefit to the tutoring and literacy organization 826LA. Presented by Judd Apatow and Adam McKay, respectively producer...

  • Ron Burgundy performs Rob Ford's campaign theme song on 'Conan'

    Ron Burgundy performs Rob Ford's campaign theme song on 'Conan'

    Ever-classy 1970s TV anchorman Ron Burgundy (a.k.a. Will Ferrell) dropped by Conan O'Brien's show Wednesday night to talk about a lot of things, including his Dodge Durango ads and what to do in the event of a prison riot.

  • In 'Pan,' Levi Miller takes an 'awesome' trip to Neverland

    In 'Pan,' Levi Miller takes an 'awesome' trip to Neverland

    Early last year, about 4,000 boys ages 11 to 13 gathered in London's Wembley Arena to demonstrate that they had what it took to play a perpetual child. British filmmaker Joe Wright and casting director Dixie Chassay were holding an open call for their Neverland film, "Pan," and they hoped a worthy...

  • Anne Hathaway, Nancy Meyers say 'The Intern' evolved from 'Baby Boom'

    Anne Hathaway, Nancy Meyers say 'The Intern' evolved from 'Baby Boom'

    Nancy Meyers wrote and directed "The Intern," a comedy opening Sept. 25 in which Anne Hathaway plays Jules, the young founder of a thriving Internet startup who hires a 70-year-old intern, played by Robert De Niro. Meyers, who also wrote and directed the movies "It's Complicated" and "Something's...