You can't help but root for Ron Burgundy, the hapless newscaster played by Will Ferrell. That's the genius of the Anchorman films. In this sequel, Ron is shown as an alcoholic, crack-smoking, backstabbing, borderline racist, near moron... and yet he still retains his utterly winning, folksy quality. He is such an engaging character that he even makes up for a screenplay (co-written by Ferrell with director McKay) that is so skimpily written that it would barely pass muster in an old Jerry Lewis/Dean Martin vehicle.
The film, set in the early 1980s, starts with Ron being told by his hero, the soon-to-retire broadcaster Mack Harken (Harrison Ford), that he is the worst journalist ever. When Ron's wife (Christina Applegate) gets Harken's job, Ron is so upset he promptly walks out on his family. The only employment he can find is as MC at a kids' adventure park where he drunkenly falls out with the dolphins and with his fellow employees alike and haplessly attempts suicide. Then comes the chance to salvage his career at new 24-hour news station GNN. He calls together his old team for one last bash at newscasting stardom. Success means the chance for them all to perm their hair.
In amid the gags and slapstick, the film-makers throw in some trenchant points about the dumbing down of TV news when ratings are all that matter and live car chases become the holy grail. Ron endures reversals – blindness, the crashing of his Winnebago, the taunting from his rival Jack Lime (James Marsden) – with the same cheery equanimity as he greets his surprise success. He gets to help his son raise a shark. The film ends utterly absurdly with a fight between rival TV crews including one from the BBC led by Sacha Baron Cohen, some well- mannered Canadians led by Jim Carrey and even the History Channel (led by Liam Neeson). The celebrity cameos serve no purpose whatsoever.
Many of the jokes here fall as flat as Ron does during his ice-skating routine. Nonetheless, Burgundy's inane charm is very hard to resist. The film makes enjoyable viewing simply because Ron is at the heart of it, preening his moustache and mugging for the camera. At times, the humour seems risqué and almost grown up. There are references to sexually transmitted diseases and big business corrupting the media. Ron, though, is a child at heart. Taking its cue from him, Anchorman 2 is infantile in the extreme – and therein lies its strange appeal.
Directed by Adam McKay, 119 mins. Starring: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Christina Applegate