(Left to right) David Koechner is Champ Kind

(Left to right) David Koechner is Champ Kind

Ferrell’s puffed-up TV newscaster Ron Burgundy is back

By the beard of Zeus, what is this? So might Ron Burgundy ask, as may you, about the mere existence of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

Anchorman 2:

The Legend Continues

2.5 stars (out of four)

Rating: PG

By the beard of Zeus, what is this?

So might Ron Burgundy ask, as may you, about the mere existence of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

It’s the long-awaited comedy sequel that supposedly nobody wanted, except for millions of fans of Burgundy, Will Ferrell’s puffed-up TV newscaster, and his Channel 4 teammates: thunderdolt weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), scented news sleuth Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and sports clod Champ “Whammy!” Kind (David Koechner).

The little people didn’t matter, according to studio bean counters, which is why it took nearly a decade to make a follow-up to the 2004 cult hit Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.

Now that it’s here, again directed by Adam McKay and co-written by him with Ferrell, we need to stroke Zeus’s whiskers and wonder if maybe those bean counters had a point.

It’s not that Anchorman 2 is bad. Laughs are plentiful, even if the quotable catchphrases aren’t so much this time. If you loved the first Anchorman, you’ll at least like the sequel.

But it’s gone from being kind of a big deal to being kind of a bloated deal. Much of what was great about the first movie has been blown up to the point where hilarity turns to head-scratching silliness.

The first Anchorman was wicked satire about 1970s egos, fashions and gender wars; this one is blunt theatre of the absurd at the dawn of 1980s corporate and media excess.

Our San Diego news guys are obliged by changing times and economic circumstances to decamp to New York City, just as the ’80s begin and 24/7 cable news operations such as CNN are about to launch (James Marsden plays a smarmy rival to Ron).

Ron now finds himself tangling with not just one female distraction (Christina Applegate, back in a smaller role) but also a second one: a news honcho (Meagan Good) whose forthright manner and evident colour prompt Burgundy to add a big dollop of racism to his sexism.

Meanwhile, Brick’s moronic attempts to chat up women have morphed into an entire subplot romance, with an equally clueless newsroom receptionist played by Kristen Wiig.

Brian’s infamous love supplies cabinet has expanded to include not just colognes (Sex Panther is back, and explosive!) but also exotic condoms with such names as the Responsible Pirate.

Champ has a fast-food outlet wherein he puts things into a deep fryer that were never meant to be there. Ever heard of “Chicken of the Cave”? Don’t ask.

And that rumble in the park between rival news teams? It’s gone from what was mostly a hilarious off-screen gag in the first movie (what did Brick do with that trident?) into an all-out park and street brawl, featuring what may set a new movie record for the largest number of celebrity cameos. One of them plays the ghost of Stonewall Jackson, just for the hell of it.

Anchorman 2 is frequently amusing, with your personal hilarity meter likely to rate it higher if you enjoy seeing beloved characters acting even goofier than before.

As for me, I quote Brian Fantana’s promise about Sex Panther: “60 per cent of the time, it works every time.”

Which happens to be exactly the percentage this movie needs to get a “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, just barely.

Peter Howell is a syndicated Toronto Star movie critic.