Actor Will Ferrell as fictional anchorman Ron Burgundy
(USA TODAY) -- When did the news get awesome?
It's a question a viewer asks while watching blowhard newsman Ron Burgundy narrate a live car chase in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (* * * out of four; rated PG-13; opening today nationwide). But it could also be applied to this sequel, which is nearly as silly-funny as its 2004 predecessor.
It's not unusual for comedies to sink to silly-stupid depths. A rare few are bona fide silly-funny. Anchorman, and now its follow-up, fall into the latter category of inspired lunacy.
The movie cleverly spoofs the 24-hour TV news cycle, as well as sexism and racism in the workplace. Not every scene is equally funny, of course, but most of the comic antics generate laughs.
It's 1980 in this follow-up to the '70s-era Anchorman, and Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is no longer the top newsman in San Diego (pronounced San De-ahh-go by the lame-brained Burgundy). He's been run out of the business and works as a SeaWorld announcer.
He is, however, as inappropriate and boorish as ever, prompting a kid to yell: "Children and animals hate you, Ron Burgundy!"
His inept former news team, dim-witted weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), inanely slick reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and bigoted sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner) also have gone on to non-journalistic pursuits.
The chemistry and improvisational energy of this comic quartet fuel the comedy. They inhabit their motley crew of characters with outrageous flair. And Ferrell is spot-on as the buffoonish Burgundy.
Burgundy is offered an on-air gig by a news start-up - GNN (Global News Network), the first 24-7 news organization. He rounds up his team, vowing: "I'm gonna go do what God put Ron Burgundy on this Earth to do: have salon-quality hair and read the news."
The mustachioed Burgundy takes an ultra-patriotic stance in his first newscast and reports upbeat news. ("Don't just have a great night," he tells viewers. "Have an American night.") The approach quickly wins the hearts of TV watchers.
Burgundy and former co-anchor Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) have married and had a son, Walter (Judah Nelson). Greg Kinnear figures into their dynamics in a comical subplot. Supporting players are absurdly funny: Kristen Wiig as a daft secretary, Meagan Good as Burgundy's tough boss and James Marsden as Burgundy's swaggering nemesis.
Screenwriters Ferrell and Adam McKay, who also directs, reprise the wackier elements from the first movie. Burgundy indulges in a jazz flute solo and his canine sidekick Baxter is still on hand, lively as ever, despite the passing of the years.
In the original, one of the funniest segments was a rumble between competing news teams. (The few rules to this nasty fight entail not touching the face or hair, though outright annihilation is fine.) A similar, but more elaborate, gag here is boisterously humorous.
As a bonus, the comedy, produced by Judd Apatow, has an abundance of starry cameos. Clocking in at two hours, however, the movie is about 20 minutes too long and a skit involving Burgundy's temporary blindness grows tiresome.
While it may not be as quotable as its predecessor, Anchorman 2 still is wacky fun. And who can resist brave little Baxter tackling yet another predator and saving the day once more?
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