Review — Will Ferrell and the gang return in hilarious comedy sequel that is predictably insane

While it fails to fully match the witty originality and effortless hilarity of its predecessor, the highly anticipated “Anchorman 2” doesn’t disappoint, delivering big laughs and earnest performances from a cast that clearly had as much fun making the movie as they no doubt hope audiences will watching it.

In the words of the eminently quotable original, “Don’t act like you’re not impressed.”by: PHOTO COURTESY OF PARAMOUNT PICTURES - Wacky quartet -- The cast of the first movie -- Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner and Will Farrell -- return for 'Anchorman 2.'

Subtitled “The Legend Continues,” the film follows funnyman Will Ferrell reprising his role as dense, narcissistic and hair-obsessed Ron Burgundy — the former seeming to have not missed a beat despite nearly a decade having passed since the release of “Anchorman.”

The cast also includes Christina Applegate as Burgundy’s old flame and professional rival, Veronica Corningstone; Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner as his colorful and almost disturbingly neurotic news team; and a slew of big-name celebrity cameos that will surely be better seen on the big screen rather than read about here.

Written by Ferrell and Adam McKay (who also directs), “Anchorman 2” manages to easily sidestep the ever-present danger of the big-budget comedy sequel: namely, letting down the fans.

Instead, this sequel rarely misses in its efforts to align itself with the loosely structured spirit of the original, paying homage to its predecessor in countless ways, while still largely recapturing what made “Anchorman” work so well: the undeniable feeling that anything — even the most ridiculous thing imaginable — could be said or done at any point. That includes Burgundy bottle feeding what appears to be a young great white shark, and his offhand remark that, “Suicide makes you hungry — I don’t care what anybody says.”

Although it’s hardly the top priority (or a priority at all), the film does occasionally stray outside the realm of zany slapstick. For one thing, it features a superficial but nonetheless, bitingly accurate, critique of the 24-hour-news-cycle model of broadcast journalism. It’s a cheap shot, sure, and absurdly reductionist, but it’s still immensely satisfying for anyone dissatisfied with the state of modern-day televised news to see those responsible lampooned as lazy, utterly incompetent dunces.

But the film’s most serious gaffe also comes when it tries to grapple with a more serious issue. As the original, in its tongue-in-cheek way, confronted gender issues and the rise of the working woman in 1970s-era society, the sequel takes on race, albeit far more clumsily.

While it’s not altogether surprising that Ferrell’s Burgundy is just as awkward around black colleagues as he was around females, the reasoning behind it is far more difficult to comprehend, and the on-screen results are often more uncomfortable than they are amusing. And the nationwide turmoil exhibited in the wake of such recent events as last year’s shooting of Trayvon Martin would seem to indicate our country may not be quite ready to watch a white man call a family of African Americans “pipe-hitting b****es,” even for comedic effect.

With this and other flaws, even the most diehard of fans are likely to find “Anchorman 2” draggy at times. But it remains a fun and effective comedy, with enough funny material to draw at least a smile out of anyone — if not a belly laugh. And these days, a little levity — however outlandish it may be — is something to be thankful for.

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