Movie Review: Final scene lifts 'Anchorman 2' out of mediocrity

Answer the following:

The line "Dorothy Mantooth is a SAINT!" is: a) one of the funniest in cinematic history; b) a mildly amusing retort from 2004's "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy"; or c) Dorothy who?

Allow this test to serve as a guide to adjusting your expectations for the long-awaited sequel "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues." Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay co-wrote both films, and Judd Apatow once more is producing. The original film skewered television news in the 1970s, as personified by the lovingly pompous blowhard Ron Burgundy (Mr. Ferrell), and became a cult classic.

The gang's all back, including Christina Applegate as Veronica Corningstone, now Ron's wife. Filling out the team are Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and David Koechner, all of whom have become bigger stars since 2004; they must have accepted big pay cuts to do this.

It's now 1980, roughly seven years after the original, when Ron was the biggest name in San Diego TV news.

'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues'

Starring: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and David Koechner.

Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, drug use, language and comic violence.

He and Veronica are an anchor team in New York City, and life is good. They have a swanky brownstone home, a cute mop top son and are on the verge of ascending to positions as network anchors.

What could possibly go wrong?

It doesn't take long for Ron's career to swan-dive. He and Veronica part after a nasty argument, and she takes up with a wonderfully laid-back psychiatrist played by Greg Kinnear.

Luckily, Ron still has fans. One is a producer working on the crazy idea of starting a 24-hour news network, and he pursues the downtrodden newsman. Ron is eager to round up the old crew and do "what God put Ron Burgundy on this Earth to do: have salon-quality hair and read the news."

"Anchorman 2's" view of the Global News Network makes a great point about what passes for broadcast news. Turns out, viewers don't want a traditional news package of the magnificently tanned star anchor Jack Lime (personified by James Marsden with deep tan and bright teeth).

No, they want what Ron Burgundy is selling: car chases, sex, puppies and by-God patriotism. His new sign-off is "Don't just have a great night, have an American night!"

Soon he's back on top, again. Ron has fame, regional Emmys and a new relationship with Linda, his tough African-American boss (Meagan Good). But in an amusing mashup of two ice skating films, Mr. Ferrell's "Blades of Glory" and "Ice Castles," Ron discovers life can change in an instant.

In some ways, the "Anchorman 2" movie isn't a comeback for Ron Burgundy. After the cult success of the original, he never really left. Mr. Ferrell has been parading for the past few weeks in character, hawking Dodge Durangos in television commercials, showing up to anchor a real newscast in Bismark, N.D., singing on "Saturday Night Live" with One Direction, and having his face on the carton of a "Scotch"-flavored Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

So, the big question: Is this movie worth the nine-year wait? That depends on your devotion to the characters, because there isn't much of a plot.

For the longest time, "Anchorman 2" feels like a drawn-out skit, punctuated by funny Ron Burgundy oaths (unprintable here). A Winnebago incident stands out as a beautifully shot absurdity early in the film, and a budding romance between Mr. Carell's Brick Tamland and an equally hopeless GNN secretary, played by Kristen Wiig (again, with the pay cuts), is a sweet, fresh departure from the original.

But it's all set up for a grand finale that echoes the funniest scene in the first movie. Indeed, we're talking news team gang fight. No Ben Stiller this time, but this melee is bigger, better and has the ghost of Stonewall Jackson. To spoil any of the cameos would be a crime.

Maria Sciullo: or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.

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