Can there be too much of a good thing? Where did that expression come from, anyway? If it’s good, isn’t more always better?
Or, actually, don’t discuss. Because, in the case of “Anchorman 2” anyway, the question is sort of pointless, isn’t it? Everything about both the original 2004 film, a cult classic of the Will Ferrell oeuvre, and its lead character, Ron Burgundy, was puffed up and absurd and ridiculous.
And so, why wouldn’t the sequel be even more puffed up, more absurd and more ridiculous? As long as Ferrell’s back (he is), and reunited with his wacky partners (he is) to form a veritable dream team of inappropriateness (they do), then what could be wrong?
Not that “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” again directed with total self-assurance by Adam McKay, is a work of fine art. It’s a broad, low-brow comedy, which one imagines was concocted somewhat like a huge abstract painting: You throw gobs (or jokes) onto a big canvas, some spills over the edges, and it’s messy and lumpy, but hey, it’s all good, and anyway, the next gob is coming.
For those who may have missed the original, it brought us Burgundy, a TV anchor defined by his goofiness, self-importance, good-natured chauvinism, and polyester. Set in the ’70s, the theme was gender equality; Burgundy’s foil was Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), who sought her own anchor chair.
In the sequel, the issue isn’t gender but the very purpose of TV news: To inform, or entertain? We’re in 1980, and Burgundy and Corningstone, now married, host a morning show together. Then she – alone – is offered an evening anchor slot. Burgundy? He’s fired (the boss is a gruffly funny Harrison Ford, sounding quite Brokaw-esque.)
Ron tells Veronica she can’t take the job without him. She accuses him of acting like Julius Caesar. “Who the hell is Julius Caesar?” he bellows. “I don’t follow the NBA!”
Veronica takes the job and abandons Ron. But opportunity comes in the form of a job offer that sounds crazy: a new 24-hour news channel, being launched by an Aussie billionaire. Its name? GNN.
Burgundy heads for New York, stopping to gather the old news team from San Diego – er, San Di-AHgo, as he pronounces it: overly emotional sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), now running a chicken joint; overly sexed reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), now photographing cats; and overly insane weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell, reliably hilarious) now dead. Or so he thinks.
Burgundy’s new nemesis is the impossibly good-looking, self-adoring anchorman Jack Lime (James Marsden, perfect in such self-mocking roles). And his superior is the overachieving Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), who finds Burgundy ridiculous but then inexplicably falls for him. Linda is not only a woman but black, a double-whammy for the chauvinistic Burgundy; their coupling, however improbable, leads to a very funny dinner-table scene with Linda’s disapproving family.
Of course, underdog Ron has tricks up his sleeve. “Why do we need to tell the people what they need to hear?” he muses. “Why can’t we tell them what they WANT to hear?” And they’re off, satirizing today’s infotainment brand of cable news. A routine involving an endless car chase and, well, Yasser Arafat (yes, Yasser Arafat) is one of the more inspired scenes in the film.
The starry cast also includes Kristen Wiig, intensely weird as only she can be. And there’s the finale, a news-team rumble in midtown Manhattan involving more celebrity cameos than you ever thought possible. Sacha Baron Cohen as a BBC anchor? Only the beginning. Of course, it all feels like too much.
But you can’t have too much of a good thing, remember?