*** (out of four)
Though his glorious mustache causes him to resemble a man, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is, in reality, the ultimate giant baby -- a random collision of unchecked impulses and defiant tantrums. Whoever hires the fired anchorman to host the Sea World dolphin show after wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) chooses her promotion over her husband must have known the guy soon would be drunkenly asking the two female trainers to kiss in front of the crowd. "I would eat dolphins if it was legal!" he shouts. Of course he does, and of course he would. Ron lives on a higher, louder plane, where compromise and tact are for chumps.
In "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues," Ferrell's veteran newsman (who justified his own legend in the endlessly quotable 2004 film) hasn't lost a shred of his unparalleled delivery. Not everything that comes out of Burgundy's mouth is a winner, but Ferrell's 150 percent performance constantly turns stupid into gold. This time he's recruited to join the first-ever 24-hour news network, prompting a Muppets-style reunion with his old colleagues: Sports reporter Champ Kind (David Koechner) runs a restaurant where he serves fried bats as chicken; Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) would creep out the cats he photographs if they understood him; and moronic weather man Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) delivers the kind of eulogy that could only come from a man who loves lamp.
Too often the script by Ferrell and director/co-writer Adam McKay, which briefly and tentatively sends up the modern 24-hour news machine, forgets about characters and plotlines (maybe because a commitment to story dampened the original's pace and energy). James Marsden appears as Ron's new rival, but too easily accepts defeat. Ron's rocky relationship with his boss, Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), leads to the film's worst scene, in which Ron awkwardly mimics African-American stereotypes in front of Linda and her family, who are black. Neither Good nor Applegate (nor Rudd) gets much to work with, and a running gag involving Veronica's new man (Greg Kinnear) goes on far too long.
Also, louder isn't always funnier, as evidenced by Brick's defense of the first woman he's ever met who's his intellectual match (Kristen Wiig).
But there's nothing like laughing your face off, and even at nearly two full hours "Anchorman 2" gets the giddy, giggly, cheek-pressuring job done. It's better not to spoil too many jokes. Just prepare to learn how badly Ron needs his eyesight and witness evidence that a pop-culture figure you never thought was funny ... still isn't funny.
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