Review: Comic nuggets in ‘Anchorman 2’
Review • Sequel has some hilarious scenes, but plenty of dead air.
Published: December 19, 2013 11:23AM
Updated: December 18, 2013 09:13AM
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This photo provided by Paramount Pictures shows Christina Applegate as Veronica Corningstone in a scene from the film, "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues." Paramount Pictures releases the film in the US on Dec. 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Gemma LaMana)

I know this is a minority opinion, but I believe 2004’s “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” ranks with “Caddyshack” as one of those comedies that has some gut-bustingly funny moments, but as a whole isn’t nearly as good as you remember it.

Nine years later comes “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” which follows the tradition of the first movie — wandering over two hours from ridiculously funny to randomly weird to just killing time, and then back to insanely hilarious.

There’s a plot, of sorts, as Ron (Will Ferrell) and his now-wife and weekend co-anchor Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) come to a career crossroads in 1980. Ron is fired and Veronica is offered the desk for a network nightly-news show. Ron’s ultimatum is “it’s me or your job,” which leads to the couple splitting up and Ron, once again, hitting the skids.

Salvation comes from a new invention: 24-hour cable news. Ron is offered an anchor slot on the new Global News Network, and gets to reunite his old San Diego team: hip reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), bigoted sportscaster Champ Kidd (David Koechner) and out-to-lunch weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell).

The four head to New York, but face a tough rivalry from GNN’s lead anchor, Jack Lime (James Marsden). Then Ron, mired in the 2 a.m. slot, tries something new: Jingoistic patter, fluffy animal stories, live coverage of high-speed chases, empty-headed speculation, intrusive graphics — in short, every crappy element of modern TV news. Of course, it’s a hit in the ratings.

That’s some sharp social satire, but don’t worry: Ferrell and his director/co-writer, Adam McKay, can only sustain that kind of braininess for a few seconds. Pretty soon it’s back to the double entendres, throwaway gags and general strangeness that are Ferrell’s trademark.

Sometimes the strange stuff connects, like when Ron sings a ballad to a shark — or when the dimbulb Brick meets Chani (Kristin Wiig), a GNN receptionist as loopy as he is. Just as often, as with a sustained spoof of sappy fighting-against-disability movies, the jokes feel forced.

And, since this is a sequel, the jokes that worked the first time have to be trotted out again. For example, Ron’s jazz-flute talents reappear, in a humorless sequence. On the other hand, the gang-fight joke from the first movie is redone, bigger and bolder, with even more famous stars in the cameos — and the result is the movie’s funniest five minutes.

The trouble with “Anchorman 2” is getting to those five minutes. Ferrell and McKay suffer the same “kill your darlings” problem as their boss, producer Judd Apatow: A belief that every joke they write is golden, so they can’t part with a single one. When a frothy comedy clocks in at just under two hours, it’s time to start cutting more of the deadwood.

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‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’

Some gut-busting laughs lurk within this overstuffed sequel, in which Will Ferrell’s pompous Ron Burgundy returns.

Where • Theaters everywhere.

When • Opens today.

Rating • PG-13 for crude and sexual content, drug use, language and comic violence.

Running time • 119 minutes.