Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is a scattershot sequel with one absolutely brilliant idea: that in 1980, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his clueless, sexist TV team would be the ones to usher in the era of modern cable news—normalizing the use of unverified reporting, weather alarmism, car chases, animal stories, and intra-corporate propaganda. “Why do we have to tell people what they need to hear?” Ron asks in the film’s eureka moment. “Why don’t we tell them what they want to hear?” After concluding The Other Guys with scathing statistics about the financial sector, director Adam McKay remains mercifully unafraid of planting social commentary in even the daffiest of vehicles.
At 119 minutes, Anchorman 2 is a shambling, haphazardly edited movie of many ideas—some hilarious, others undercooked, several recycled from the first film—to earn laughs through simple recognition. (At times, it could use the polish of its era’s Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker classics.) All of McKay’s movies improve on repeat viewings, as they become familiar and meme worthy. If Anchorman 2 seems hit-and-miss now, there’s a significant chance that it will get funnier over the long haul.
In any case, there’s no shortage of material. Booted by the network boss (Harrison Ford) and unable to cope with the promotion of wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), Ron heads back to San Diego, where he makes announcements at an aquatic park (sponsored by “BP oil, nature’s best friend!”). There, a rep approaches him from “GNN” (Dylan Baker), a pioneering 24-hour news channel. With a prime offer, Ron gets the band back together, finding Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) working as a cat photographer and Champ Kind (David Koechner) selling fried bat (“chicken of the cave”). Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), is, they think, dead. Not only does he turn out to be alive, but—like Garth in Wayne’s World 2—he’ll meet his perfect mate (Kristen Wiig).
As the San Diego troupe descends on New York, entering into a rivalry with a vain, Chicago-transplanted anchor (James Marsden), the movie sometimes veers a little wide of the mark. The subplot involving Ron’s uneasiness around an interracial romance with his boss (Meagan Good) plays with fire; the scene in which she takes him to meet her family gets more cringes than laughs. Fortunately, Baxter is back, as is Burgundy’s peerless way with words (“By the hymen of Olivia Newton-John!”), to which the movie adds a shark, countless cameos, and a one-upping of the first film’s Gangs Of New York brawl. To say anything more about that would be un-classy.