The question asked by many of Will Ferrell's biggest fans has always been when the comedic actor would return to the polyester suits of his greatest creation, Ron Burgundy. If Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is the best the filmmakers could come up with, I'm afraid even his most ardent supporters will find themselves asking why they bothered.
The film opens at the dawn of the 1980s with Ron (Ferrell) and his now-wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) pitted against each other for the anchor chair of a retiring legend (Harrison Ford). Having lost out on the job, Ron quickly finds himself at the end of his professional rope until a headhunter (Dylan Baker) offers him the graveyard shift on GNN, the soon-to-debut first-ever 24-hour cable news network. Bringing the original news team back (Steve Carell, David Koechner and Paul Rudd all return), Ron stumbles upon the key to success when he says, "It's too bad we have to tell the viewer the real news, instead of what they really want to hear."
Anchorman 2 attempts to recapture the magic that made the original an instant classic, but we quickly learn a surprising truth: the Ron Burgundy character just doesn't work as an underdog. In the early scenes featuring Burgundy in competition with a younger, more suave anchorman named Jack Lime (James Marsden), the character is shown to be pathetically out of his depth around a newsroom, even though Burgundy should be the definition of a network newsman of the time.
Even worse, Ferrell and co-writer and director Adam McKay have forgotten that their character is supposed to be likable. Instead of just showing Burgundy's discomfort around his new African-American boss (Meagan Good), they have him come off as hopelessly racist in a scene reminiscent of the embarrassing "mole" routine in Austin Powers: Goldmember. It wasn't funny then, and it's even less funny now with the word "black" substituted in. The truth of the matter is Ferrell and McKay's script is simply too weak even to be an Adam Sandler movie. Think about that for a second.
Between stars who have obviously outgrown their original roles (Rudd is barely there) and someone on the creative team deciding that there can never be too many cameos, the film's near-two-hour running time begins to feel like punishment. As the original Anchorman showed, it's better to leave the fans wanting more.
This article appeared in print with the headline "American legends."