It's telling that the kerfuffle of the last few days, in which this sequel has been cut in order to appease the MPAA and obtain the shiny PG13 rating, whereas we get the full version with all the rudery intact, is far more interesting than the film itself. You kind of knew this anyway: it's yet another movie in which Will Ferrell plays a tedious, ignorant blowhard with absolutely no sense of humour, so, as with the first film, laughs were always going to be thin on the ground. Certainly there was little audible laughter when I saw it at the Cineworld in Fulham Road: an interesting contrast with the buttcam version that's already online (surreptitiously filmed in an American cinema on a mobile phone), where the packed audience were genuinely enjoying themselves and laughing pretty much throughout. Okay, there were only about 20 people in my screening, but even so you'd have thought some of the laughs would be audible.
In the event there's only one decent gag in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and that comes early on from Harrison Ford as the studio head who finally fires the idiotic Ron Burgundy. But it's the arrival of the first 24-hour rolling news channel that brings Burgundy and his team (including Paul Rudd and Steve Carell) back onto screens, dispensing with the notion that news should be about important stuff the public needs to hear, and invents "dumbing down" by replacing The News with the kind of soft trivia, vulgarity, cute animals and stupidity that the public wants. He gets it on with his boss (leading to a jaw-droppingly misjudged dinner sequence that even by the low standards of the rest of the film is frankly embarrassing), goes blind, reconnects with his ex-wife and son, befriends a shark and saves the day against the might of Real News....
It's not that there aren't any jokes in the movie - as evidenced by the American audience braying and cackling at every stupid line - but none of them work. Burgundy is an idiot, but unlike the great heroic failures of comedy we're never given any reason to root for him, like him, or want to spend any time with him: he's not a lovable buffoon but a racist halfwit. Meanwhile, Steve Carell's imbecilic weatherman Brick gets the bulk of the theoretical jokes by randomly blurting out non sequiturs and shouting, but rather than laughing you just wonder why he hasn't been sectioned. Strangely, thanks to the Harrison Ford connection, the newscaster comedy it reminds you of is actually Morning Glory, which is a throwaway Rachel McAdams romcom of very little substance, but it's far more likeable and funnier than Anchorman 2.
Really, it's just not worth the effort and for all the uncredited star cameos in the overblown last act (including Sacha Baron Cohen putting on another funny voice to even less effect than his gay Frenchman role in Ferrell's otherwise worthless Talladega Nights) it's just not funny, hooting Americans notwithstanding. Is it a national thing? Our idea of rolling news is the BBC's News 24 channel, and we don't appear to have the kind of American newstainment channels parodied in Anchorman 2 - at least until Gavin Esler or Sophie Raworth start smoking crack, talking frankly about genitals or swearing on camera. Let's hope not. And let's hope this is the last outing for Ron Burgundy.