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‘Anchorman 2’: Compared to original, it’s kind of a bigger deal

‘ANCHORMAN 2: the legend continues’ ★★★1⁄2

Ron Burgundy Will Ferrell

Brick Tamland Steve Carell

Brian Fantana Paul Rudd

Champ Kind David Koechner

Veronica Corningstone Christina Applegate

Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by Adam McKay and written by Ferrell and McKay. Running time: 119 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for crude and sexual content, drug use, language and comic violence). Opens Wednesday at local theaters.

'You just go and do the silliness,' says 'Anchorman' director
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Updated: April 14, 2014 4:46PM

No actor in the history of modern cinema has shilled for any movie as relentlessly, as shamelessly, with such creativity and did I mention as relentlessly as Will Ferrell has for “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.”

From fronting car commercials to playing the flute on “Conan” to showing up on “Saturday Night Live” to making an appearance at the Canadian Olympic curling trials to interviewing Peyton Manning on ESPN to anchoring the local news in North Dakota, Ferrell has spent almost more time as Ron Burgundy than he has as Will Ferrell in the last month. If he weren’t so ridiculously hilarious, you’d think there be the danger of a backlash. You don’t want folks to be Burgundy-ed out two weeks before the release date.

Now the movie’s actually coming out, and Ferrell can go collapse in a heap somewhere. The top story tonight: “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” is even funnier and — I really mean this — more thought-provoking than the original.

Believe it or not, it’s been nearly a decade since the release of “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” which did pretty OK commercially (grossing about $85 million domestically) but really grew into a bona-fide pop culture phenomenon over the years thanks to home video.

The sequel finds Ron and his wife, Veronica (Christina Applegate), living in the New York of the early 1980s, anchoring a local newscast at a station where the boss is the legendary hard-ass Mack Harken, played by Harrison Ford, who is pretty funny because he doesn’t try to be funny. (If you lined up all the actors in the world according to their willingness and ability to promote a movie, Ferrell would be first, then everybody else, and then Harrison Ford wouldn’t even show up to be last in line.)

Veronica gets a promotion, Ron gets fired — and that leads to a split in the marriage. Unable to handle Veronica’s success and incapable of relating to his son Walter, Ron Burgundy is down on his luck until a fledgling, 24-hour news network called GNN hires Ron and gives him the OK to round up the old San Diego posse, including Paul Rudd’s Brian Fantana, Steve Carell’s Brick Tamland and David Koechner’s Champ Kind.

These guys are all great. Rudd puts his deadpan delivery to terrific use, Koechner is only slightly more buffoonish than some real sportscasters and Carell plays a man so stupid it’s a wonder he’s gotten this far in life without somehow walking right into a fatal accident.

But of course, this is Ferrell’s movie, and if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ever decided to recognize acting that goes beyond heavy dramatic lifting, they would do well to look at Ferrell’s work, and, no, I’m not joking. Actors always talk about how it’s harder to do comedy than drama, and the way Ferrell flings himself into this absurdist character, and wrings laughs out of some of the most politically incorrect scenarios anyone would dare try in 2013, is a marvel.

Ron Burgundy takes up with Meagan Good’s Linda, a producer at GNN who realizes Ron’s a complete idiot but finds herself attracted to him, leading to one of the worst meet-the-family dinners ever filmed.

And oh yeah, Ron becomes a huge national star because he makes some really dopey on-air decisions that click with the public, spike the ratings and forever change the way the news is presented. He keeps tripping on his, um, stupidity, and landing in a pile of fame and fortune.

Ferrell and his longtime collaborator Adam McKay have a unique gift for creating characters that are human car wrecks yet somehow win our affection. Ron Burgundy’s a loathsome, bigoted, ignorant oaf. He also wears his vulnerability on his sleeve, believes it’s possible to tame a shark as a pet — and when he’s struck blind, he’s the least inspirational struck-blind character in the history of movies, and that’s kinda great.

I know the celebrity cameos in “Anchorman 2” have been leaked all over the Internet, but I’m still hoping you’re surprised by at least some of them. The fight sequence from the original is reprised here and then some, in an extended battle montage featuring some of the most familiar faces in the world having the time of their lives.

And then, back to the news. The early 1980s Ron Burgundy is an idiot for the ages, but the scary thing is, he also turns out to be a visionary. “Anchorman 2” is one of the funniest movies of the year but, in its own loony way, it’s a sobering look at the television news business then — and now.


Twitter: @richardroeper

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