If you predicted Baxter would be back to talk to the animals, that Brian Fantana would once again open his cabinet of sexual delights, and that Ron Burgundy would pick up the flute to swoon the masses — well, that’s because you know filmmakers are going to milk what worked before. And you'd be right on all three predictions.
That's how Anchorman 2 rolls — dishing out a few new gags while riffing on past success. The film opens at the dawn of the 1980s, with Burgundy and his wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) anchoring as second-tier in New York. When Veronica is picked for a plum slot and Burgundy is fired, the pair split up. Down on his luck, Burgundy is recruited to work the graveyard shift for GNN, a cable network attempting to become the first 24-hour news channel. That inspires him to get the news team from the first film back together.
There’s a fair amount of creativity at work here, but director Adam McKay (he also cowrote with Ferrell) zips along a bit impatiently through the fresh jokes. (To his credit, he lingers on a brilliantly demented scene that takes place near Burgundy's lighthouse retreat.) Anchorman 2 is at its best when it’s giving us all-new nuggets of inspired lunacy. A sequence in Burgundy’s RV and the reunion with cowboy-hat-wearing Champ (David Koechner) have the kind of loopiness that made the original so much fun. The cable news gig lets Anchorman 2 gently poke at news channels that have replaced news with stories that pander to the audience and viewers' sense of patriotism.
Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids) shares a couple of appropriately weird scenes as Brick Tamland’s goofy love interest. Less effective is a dinner where Burgundy meets his boss’s African-American family and tries to ingratiate himself but ends up being offensive in his clueless, over-the-top way.
As you also could have predicted, there’s another battle of the news teams, this one jam-packed with some surprising but underwhelming cameos. It strains to be outrageous — and while parts of the scene work, it drags on too long. Likewise, there's more hit than miss in Anchorman 2 — a disappointment considering the overhype leading to its arrival.