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After a nine-year wait, ‘Anchorman 2’ is a funny mess

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It only took nine years to bring back Ron Burgundy and co.—bad fashion, weird battles and all.

Three stars

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Christina Applegate. Directed by Adam McKay. Rated PG-13. Now playing.

In the years since Anchorman was released in 2004, the character of arrogant, boorish newsreader Ron Burgundy has become a cult favorite and Will Ferrell’s most popular creation. It took nine years of memes, GIFs and near-constant quoting by an entire generation of fans before Ferrell and co-writer/director Adam McKay were able to get Paramount to green-light a sequel, and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues arrives with a built-in fan base and years of pent-up expectations.

The films that Ferrell and McKay have made together since Anchorman (Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Step Brothers, The Other Guys) have often felt self-indulgent, and Anchorman 2, clearly a passion project for the duo, is no different. At two hours, it runs nearly half an hour longer than the original, and the pacing is a mess, with digressions and subplots that never pay off. Like the first movie, Anchorman 2 is pretty much a nonstop joke machine, but McKay and Ferrell also came up with a simple, tight story to drive the humor the first time around, and the plotting in the sequel is much more inconsistent.

The main focus is on Ron’s job as one of the first anchors of a brand-new 24-hour cable news station known as GNN, although he experiences so many triumphs and reversals throughout the movie that it ends up with narrative whiplash. Ron recruits his old San Diego news team of womanizing reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), creepy sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner) and dim-witted weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) to join him at GNN, and they vie for screentime with Ron’s estranged wife/rival Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) and a variety of new characters.

As overstuffed and muddled as the story may be, it’s still consistently funny, and Ron remains Ferrell’s most inspired original character. The second half of the movie grows increasingly nonsensical and over the top, and the stabs at satire (the movie takes place in 1980, but its skewering of TV-news sensationalism aims at more current targets) fall flat. Yet the laughs keep going all the way to the movie’s abrupt non sequitur of an ending.

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