"Don't just have a great night -- have an American night."
That's the new signoff for the blown-dry newscaster immortalized by Will Ferrell in 2004's "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy." Originally a send-up of 1970s-era chauvinism deflated by women's lib, Ferrell's bloviating Burgundy needs new targets to spoof in "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues." The year is now 1980, and he's facing a new threat: cable television.
Well, what better medium for a vacuous reader of teleprompters than cable news, where an insatiable, 24-hour schedule inevitably leads to stuff that's, you know, not news? When Burgundy joins the upstart Global News Network, he's heralded as a visionary for his nonstop broadcasts of cute puppies, random car chases and alarmist weather warnings. "Yeah!" screams some dude in a bar. "When did the news get awesome?"
"Anchorman 2," written by Ferrell and his returning director, Adam McKay, strikes a few pointed blows against the current state of the media: The Aussie news mogul Kench Allenby (Josh Lawson) seems modeled on James Murdoch, the News Corporation heir, while Megan Good plays GNN executive Linda Jackson, whose appetite for ratings and sex recalls Faye Dunaway's Diana Christensen in 1976's "Network." When Burgundy screams "More graphics!" until viewers' screens are crammed with tickers and zippers, GNN's numbers soar higher.
Some of the satire edges out Ferrell's teammates, who gave the first film its air of unhinged lunacy. Returning are Paul Rudd as cologne-drenched reporter Brian Fontana, David Koechner as crass sportscaster Champ Kind and Steve Carell as the almost literally brainless weatherman Brick Tamland. All come with clearly improved ad-libbing skills, but only during their drinking session in a driverless RV -- "It's on cruise control," says Burgundy -- do they truly recapture their absurdist mojo. Christina Applegate, returning as Burgundy's competitor-turned-wife, Veronica Corningstone, remains a serviceable straight woman, though Kristen Wiig as an addle-headed love-interest for Brick falls oddly flat.
The outsize expectations for "Anchorman 2" -- its marketing campaign and tie-ins with various Jockey underwear, Ben and Jerry's ice cream and other products nearly rival that of a "Transformers" movie -- means that some disappointment is inevitable. This sequel may not produce any quotable lines, but to borrow one from the original: Don't act like not you're not impressed.
PLOT San Diego's classiest newscaster joins the fast-paced era of -- gasp! -- cable.
CAST Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell.
BOTTOM LINE Ron Burgundy gets a slight update but stays true to his blown-dry roots in this just-worthy-enough sequel to 2004's "Anchorman."