Ron Burgundy is good at three things: having the best mane of hair on the airwaves, reading the news and making sequels.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues does exactly what the title tells you: It furthers the adventures of the fiercest mustache ever produced by San Diego. (You know how to pronounce it.) Director Adam McKay and star Will Ferrell assemble the news team for another look at Ron's life, this time set in the 1980s, at the dawn of the 24-hour news cycle. The sequel, 10 years in the making, retreads familiar ground from time to time, but more often than not, Anchorman 2 contributes its own new laughs and set pieces. It's a worthy return to form for Mr. Burgundy.
But Ron isn't feeling so worthy when the story begins. Fired from his job as a New York City hot-shot anchorman, and estranged from his wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), Ron finds himself low on rope, ready to end it all. Before he can even attempt to take his own life (or maybe a little bit after), Ron is presented with an opportunity to return to New York, reassemble his news team, and become part of the Global News Network, the first 24-hour news channel. The new gig is no trip to Pleasure Town, but it doesn't take long for the fallen hero to pick himself up again.
Ferrell fans have waited a long time for the return of Ron Burgundy, and the good news is, he's aged well. Ron's successful comeback comes down to many factors, but most important of all is performer and co-writer Ferrell. He understands the character inside and out, committing entirely to Ron's primitive behavior in the face of anything new. Watching the movie, it's clear Ferrell was itching to get back to Ron just as much as his biggest fans.
McKay is another key party responsible for the Ron-page. (That's "Ron" and "rampage" combined. We could also call it "Burgand-sanity" if you prefer.) Looking at his body of work as a director, McKay doesn't appear to want to make movies without Ferrell’s involvement. That's great news, as they're a fantastic team with a lot of funny movies under their belt, and Anchorman 2 only bolsters the track record.
Anchorman 2 is at its smartest when it's not trying to be its predecessor — which is, thankfully, most of the film. Ferrell and McKay's fondness for the character and his world doesn't express itself with endless callbacks and surface-level alterations. There isn't really a Pleasure Town analogue, or an “Afternoon Delight” moment. Some gags certainly rear their head again, but who didn't expect another star-studded mob fight? When those moments arise, Ferrell, McKay and the cast push the absurdity to outrageous heights, mitigating the déjà vu factor.
For the most part, however, it’s new jokes from new and old characters alike. Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Steve Carell deliver the goods in their return to the roles of field reporter Brian "Sex Panther" Fantana, sportscaster Champ "Whammy" Kind, and chalk-feasting idiot weatherman Brick "Brick Tamland" Tamland, respectively. Carell gets the most screen time of the trio, sharing much of it opposite Kristen Wiig as Chani, Brick's new love interest. Their scenes can get a little grating after a while, but it's hard not to laugh when Carell and Wiig stop this short of breaking into hysterics themselves. Other highlights of the new cast include James Marsden as Jack Lime, GNN's super-handsome and super-lame premier newscaster, Meagan Good as GNN executive Linda Jackson, a new notch on Ron's belt in way too many ways, and Greg Kinnear as the ponytailed Gary, one of Manhattan's finest psychologists and quite possibly a telepath. There are numerous celebrity cameos to talk about, too, but it's best to see who pops up for yourself.
Ferrell and McKay assert that they could completely re-edit Anchorman 2 so that it features the same story, but with completely new jokes. After watching the movie, it's easy to believe them. The entire film consists of flexible dialogue, with one-liners flying fast and free. There has to be a pretty big pile of discarded jokes, because everything feels like it was improvised on the spot, other than some key FX shots and the basic structure of the story. If there's justice in the world, Ferrell and McKay will make good on their word and release a re-edited version of Anchorman 2 into theaters at some point — not because the current version is a stinker, but because the doppelganger would be such a ridiculous twist on an already ridiculous ride.
The bottom line: If you enjoyed Anchorman before, you'll enjoy it again. Ron's return to the big-screen is a worthy follow-up to the original cult classic. It'll put laughy-laugh-laughs down into your belly.
Anchorman: The Legend Continues is in theaters now.