By Steve Persall
Times Movie Critic
By the time you read this, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues will be the highest grossing movie in the history of movies, making more money than the GDP of some planets. Ron Burgundy told me so, and he's never wrong — but that depends on your definition of "never."
A few years ago, people believed there would never be a sequel to 2004's Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. They were mistaken, or else we wouldn't be doing this right now. The legend continues in, well, The Legend Continues, funnier in some ways and not in more.
When we last saw Will Ferrell's signature creation Ron, he and wife Veronica (Christina Applegate) were co-anchoring a CNN-style newscast. Well, something went toes up because they're working at a New York station in the 1980s — judging by the treacly radio hits — when part two begins. The station's esteemed anchor (Harrison Ford) is retiring, and he selects Veronica to replace him. He selects Ron to be fired.
Much scotch and an embarrassing SeaWorld gig later, Ron gets an offer from the Global News Network, an experiment in 24-hour news. Every anchorman needs a team to, um, anchor, so Ron rounds up the old Channel 4 gang. Sports guy Champ Kind (David Koechner) parlayed San Diego fame into a fried chicken (or something) restaurant. Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) quit investigative reporting to photograph cats, and weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) is dead but not really.
It's a fun crew to watch rehashing what we laugh about them. Ron's stentorian bluster, his absence of civility, makes tireless comedy. Veronica's role is lessened, separated from Ron, with her feminism issues solved. Stepping in as Ron's new lady to offend is Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), a network executive whose African-American heritage confuses and arouses Ron's jungle fever. That race is so broadly played here is a stumbling point, especially a cringing Guess Who Came to Dinner and Ruined It? scene.
On the other hand, the script by Ferrell and director Adam McKay nails the question few considered when 24-hour news networks were created: What do you broadcast when there's no news? Banished to the 2 a.m. shift, Ron and his team essentially invent Fox News and happy talk journalism, with pandering stories about patriotism and pets, indecipherable graphics and lists of things that shouldn't be listed: sharper satire than expected from a movie with a gag about denim condoms.
McKay and Ferrell keep the jokes naughty not dirty and flying for shrapnel accuracy; many miss, but when one hits it counts. It doubles down on the original's signatures: another silly jazz flute solo, another epically epic rumble among TV news gangs. Like any legend, Ron Burgundy deserves a third movie, preferably skewering reality TV, and he can divide it into two movies like teenage wizards and vampires do. Never happen.
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.