Will Ferrell cruises throught the news in Anchorman 2

by Mark Burger

Some nine years after he last signed off, Will Ferrell reprises his role as the smug, self-absorbed TV new anchor Ron Burgundy in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, a lighthearted if overlong distraction from more serious holiday fare.

The new film, again helmed by Adam McKay and penned by McKay and Ferrell, plops Burgundy into the dawn of a new era, that of the 24-hour news network. Having lost his network job — and thrown away his marriage to fellow anchor Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) along the way — Ron reassembles his old news team (Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Steve Carell) to work at the fledgling “GNN” (Global News Network) in New York City.

Ferrell settles easily into the role of the unctuous Burgundy, remaining likable and appealing even at his most obnoxiously clueless — or cluelessly obnoxious, if you prefer.

Gleefully blurting out the darndest things, both on and off the air, Ferrell’s clearly having a lot of fun.

It’s also great fun to see the “old gang” reunited here. Carell, whose career has soared the most since the first Anchorman, gets more to do and a love interest in Kristen Wiig’s hapless secretary. First-film holdovers Fred Willard and Chris Parnell appear only briefly, while Dylan Baker, Meagan Good, James Marsden and newcomer Judah Nelson (very funny as Ron and Veronica’s son Walter) join the “news team” this time around.

There’s an easy chemistry among the cast members, and it goes a long way here.

The ’70s/’80s trappings (hairstyles, song selection, pop-culture references) are always good for laughs, as are a bevy of little throwaway and background bits for sharp-eyed viewers, but not unlike the first film, Anchorman 2 doesn’t know when to quit. Even a star-studded climax, including but not limited to appearances by the likes of Harrison Ford, Jim Carrey, Will Smith, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Martion Cotillard, Greg Kinnear, Vince Vaughn, Kirsten Dunst and Liam Neeson (billed for some reason as “Micheal” Neeson), proves more exhausting than exhilarating.

The film’s best gags tend to be bunched in the first half, but the satire of the news industry is obvious at best and sometimes even heavy-handed. Maybe that’s because most of us are already in on that joke. There’s really nowhere to go with it.