Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is one of the most disappointing films of recent years because it's a follow-up to the one of the 21st century's most-loved comedies. Films that ultimately proved to be unworthy of the massive advertising campaigns they received have traditionally been summer blockbusters. This may be the first comedy in that category.
Even if you've never seen the 2004 film that introduced the world to Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), the top-rated anchorman in 1970s San Diego, you've no doubt been introduced to the character by now. It was hilarious watching ambitious Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) topple his dominance in the first film, but at the end you genuinely liked the guy. As Anchorman 2 opens, Burgundy and Veronica have switched coasts and are co-anchors of a weekend newscast in New York City. Their marriage is threatened when Veronica receives a promotion on the same day Burgundy is fired. His demand that she choose between him and the promotion results in him hosting the dolphin show at Sea World back in San Diego.
The opportunity for a television comeback arrives when Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker) recruits Burgundy for the new 24-hour Global News Network in Manhattan. Naturally, Burgundy wants to bring his old news crew with him. Former sports guy Champ Kind (David Koechner) was fired after an on-air racist rant and now runs a "fried chicken" (actually fried bat) restaurant. Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) is a successful cat photographer and member of a pack of friends nicknamed "the Lady killers" that also includes O.J. Simpson, Phil Spector and Robert Blake (how funny). Idiotic meteorologist Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) supposedly died at sea but shows up at his own funeral. The team hardly receives a hero's welcome upon arriving at GNN; they're stuck with the 2 a.m. time slot, and Burgundy instantly becomes rivals with hot shot Jack Lime (James Marsden). Ballbuster Linda Jackson (Meagan Good) is the team's new boss. The fact that she's black leads to one of the movie's few funny scenes, where Burgundy attempts to "break down the barriers of race" by making a fool of himself at a Jackson family dinner.
The original Anchorman burst with energy and confidence, but this movie is often dull. The original Anchorman was full of quotable lines, but this movie has none. The celebrity cameos in the original Anchorman felt fresh and inspired, but here it just seems stale despite the sheer volume of stars that appear. Burgundy's seeming downfall was inspired in the first movie, but here it just seems like a way to fill time. The scenes where Burgundy imparts questionable advice to his young son (Judah Nelson) should have been hilarious but are lame, as is a running gag about whether Veronica's new lover (Greg Kinnear) has mental powers.
A big part of the first movie's success was the relationship (whether it was loving or hateful) between Burgundy and Veronica. Sadly, with Applegate relegated to a supporting role here, the magic is missing. Instead, Burgundy is up against two weak antagonists. The Linda Jackson character serves no real use and her later attraction to Burgundy seems to come out of nowhere. As for Jack Lime, he's no Wes Mantooth.
Koechner, Rudd and Carell all made strong impressions in the first Anchorman, but they're essentially wasted here. The most disappointing part of the whole movie may be the romance that develops Brick and the equally stupid Chani (Kristen Wiig). Seeing Carell and Wiig in love could have been a comic goldmine, but like so much of the rest of film it falls flat.
The best thing that can be said about Anchorman 2 is that it doesn't trash the memory of the original the way sequels to some classics have. It's no worse than the many other mediocre comedies that flood theatres each year, but "mediocre" is the last thing people would expect when buying tickets to see Ron Burgundy. Burgundy famously tells people to "Stay classy," but he unfortunately forgot to stay funny.