Anchorman 2 stays classy

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Starring Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, and Meagan Good. Rated PG.

Ron Burgundy is in a mood. Charged with delivering a 2 a.m. broadcast on a fledgling cable network, the veteran anchor grouses aloud to his colleagues, the legendary Action News team, now located in New York.

“Why do we have to tell people what they need to hear? Why don’t we tell them what they want to hear?”

Eureka! Led by the idea that news can be gripping if one only dispenses with taste, insight, research, and probity, Burgundy (Will Ferrell), Champ Kind (David Koechner), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) reinvent broadcast journalism in their own zany images.

The fact that the Anchorman movies are coarse, improvised comedies tends to overshadow their stern moral character. While the original reviles the brutish and sexist male ego as personified by the dimwitted lead, the sequel deplores the devolution of his profession into sensationalism, patriotism, and speculation. This is the message that Ferrell and director Adam McKay think that the people need to hear, and they’re not wrong.

As for what people want to hear—and watch—the Action News team delivers more of the same sweet nonsense. The plot elements, including office shenanigans with a hotshot rival (James Marsden), a girlfriend for Brick (Kristen Wiig), and Ron’s relapse into extreme egotism, are merely settings for straight-faced comic riffing. Some of it is inspired, some of it is maddeningly lengthy.

What this technique lacks in freshness is perhaps compensated for in sentiment—not so much the celebration of home life as embodied by Burgundy’s son (Judah Nelson) or the family of his new girlfriend-boss Linda (Meagan Good), but the nostalgic pleasure of seeing the gang back together again, including Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), Ed Harken (Fred Willard), and even Wes Mantooth (Vince Vaughn).

They might be a little thinner, greyer, but the chemistry and friendship are still there despite time, distance, and the effects of superstardom. That, too, is something that I need to hear.

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