2004’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy might not have set the box office on fire, but the ensuing years have been kind to the film, as it generated a post-theatrical cult following and made a killing in home video sales. It’s a pop culture staple, and nine years later it’s still quoted by its doting fans on a continual basis. It took almost a decade, but Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues has finally come together after years of false starts, with the now all-star cast reuniting to reprise the roles that have become ingrained in popular culture. It’s not as snappy as the previous film, and it’s missing the unique spark of pure insanity, but Anchorman 2 is by no means a disappointment, as it’s loaded with belly-laughs and effective satire. It’s incredibly stupid, of course, but it’s sure to deliver if you’re a fan of this type of humour.

Now married, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are successful in the television industry, holding steady jobs and living affluently in NYC. But Ron is fired by boss Mack (Harrison Ford) while Veronica is offered a promotion, breaking the pair apart. Some months later, Ron has self-destructed, but is soon offered a gig with up-and-coming cable news channel GNN that plans to run 24 hours a day. It’s the perfect opportunity to reunite the old Channel 4 news team, with Ron recruiting hotshot reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), screwball weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), and overzealous sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner). Immediately locking horns with arrogant go-getter Jack Lime (James Marsden), Ron and his team look to up their game in order to bring in the ratings and prove themselves to network head Linda Jackson (Meagan Good).

With Ferrell and director Adam McKay having also teamed up for Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Step Brothers, this second Anchorman very much foregrounds the type of daft guy humour that these boys are known for. There’s nothing cerebral here, as the movie shifts from set-piece to set-piece connected by a thin narrative, allowing the talented performers to strut their improvisation stuff and spout outrageous zingers at every opportunity. It’s clear most of the jokes were improvised, but the sense of spontaneity is what keeps Anchorman 2 so alive, and McKay had the good sense to not dwell on jokes for too long. (Enough footage was actually filmed to facilitate an alternate edit with new jokes replacing the dialogue in the theatrical cut.) Considering all of the ad-libbing on display, it’s hard to fathom exactly what the script (credited to McKay and Ferrell) actually consisted of. Admittedly, none of the Anchorman movies are overly proficient from a technical perspective, with very basic cinematography and some shoddy editing, but these shortcomings hardly matter in the grand scheme of things.

Unfortunately, after two acts of borderline perfection, Anchorman 2 eventually begins to wear out its welcome, hitting a spotty third act that’s in need of more energy and snappier pacing. McKay attempts to do something sweet and heartfelt to give Ron a suitable character arc, but it’s just too drawn-out, and the picture did not need to run for almost two hours. There are also a few subplots that feel superfluous, including a corporate synergy scheme that would have been better kept on the cutting room floor. Nevertheless, there’s still lots to appreciate about Anchorman 2, which especially springs to life for its knockout climax. But what’s most notable about the film is its biting satire, delving into the absence of journalistic integrity on broadcast television in favour of sensationalism for the sake of ratings. McKay does have a bit to say on the subject, taking none-too-subtle jabs against Fox News and CNN. Ron also falls victim to his own hubris, which makes for an interesting angle.

In the years since Anchorman, Ferrell has emerged as a prominent comedic performer, but he was born to play Ron Burgundy. All of the actors here have gone onto bigger things since the first movie, but they slip back into these iconic roles as if no time has passed. Ferrell is ideal here, embracing his man-child persona yet again and basking in the freedom to go as over-the-top as he wants. Carell, meanwhile, unsurprisingly steals the show, dispersing an endless array of hilariously idiotic dialogue and committing to the character 110%. The decision to insert Kristen Wiig into the picture was an excellent one; she’s perfectly matched playing Brick’s love interest, Chani. Her role is every bit as nutty and quirky as Brick, and the pairing of Carell and Wiig lights up the screen, providing pure comedy dynamite. Rudd and Koechner are perfectly good as well, not to mention veteran Harrison Ford demonstrates that he has excellent comedic instincts. Other notable newcomers include Aussie funny-man Josh Lawson who’s highly amusing as a media tycoon, and Marsden who has a few moments to shine as Burgundy’s rival.

Anchorman 2 features a huge array of surprise celebrity cameos, as well, which absolutely cannot be spoiled here. Suffice it to say, there’s a magnificent comedic set-piece within the picture that’s packed with cameos, and had this reviewer roaring in fits of laughter. It’s perfectly-played, and the cameos are so completely random and satisfying, hence one can easily imagine this sequence being quoted and discussed ad nauseum for many years to come.

All things considered, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is not quite the knockout sequel that we all hoped for, but it’s a perfectly entertaining, often hilarious follow-up which retains the spirit of the first film and doesn’t tarnish its legacy. It’s somewhat uneven and scattershot, but it manages to stay classy, and it still satisfies both as a funny comedy and as a reunion with cherished old pals. And the fact that it’s worthwhile at all is frankly miraculous in the world of cinematic comedy. If you’re looking for a fun time at the cinema these Christmas holidays,Anchorman 2 is definitely the way to go. Be sure to sit through the end credits for an additional gag.

7.1/10