If you want to get thinky about it, it was always going to be Ron Burgundy. Not his idiot character from Semi-Pro. And not that other idiot Ricky Bobby (you don't become a national hero by satirizing NASCAR). Or any of those other idiots Will Farrell has used to lift himself into Jim Carrey-sized superstardom. It had to be a character who stumbled into his career instead of one who trained for it. It had to be a man from a sexier, earlier decade who could behave badly with clueless impunity and the sanctioning of the culture around him, like a Don Draper you didn't have to pity. It had to be, pardon the use of future-slang, a chill bro, one whose story could be repeat-viewed while high and whose best lines were easily memorized and turned into the "Yeah, Baby!" of Right Now. We were destined to love him and maybe want to be him, even if it meant trading in IQ points.
But that level of mass popularity is a dangerous position to be in. It makes for expectations, huge ones, among fans and among studio executives wanting to crush it at Christmas. It makes for marketing overkill and guerilla-style takeovers of local news stations for 30-minute stunts and limited edition Ben & Jerry's flavors named Scotchy Scotch Scotch. In its lowest form it makes for Halloween costumes worn by people who can't think of anything better. It can tip over at any second.
Good news, then, that Anchorman 2 deserves a good chunk of the monster-sized attention it's going to get. It's consistently funny and never wears out its welcome. And like its predecessor, it only flirts with trying to be about something and then decides it doesn't care, just like a good chill bro would.
It's 1980 (kinda sorta, anachronistic cultural events float in and out without concern for specificity) and Ron (Ferrell) and Veronica (Christina Applegate, barely on screen) are in New York City working as a weekend anchor team. But when Veronica rises in the ranks and Ron gets fired, their relationship sours. Along comes the birth of 24-hour news and the proposition that Ron Burgundy pioneered the mainstream use of exploitation (car chases in real time, for example) and all the other worst elements of broadcast "journalism" as we know them today. His legend now includes turning the news into passive infotainment for people as smart as Ron Burgundy.
But Ferrell and director/co-writer Adam McKay are mostly uninterested in making points (except when they are and the results aren't pleasant to look at). They'd rather pile on the nonsense. When the story gets in the way they bail and make Ron befriend a shark (daring any snotty critic to take the "jumping the" bait). When the film has to choose between moving a plot along and going for the next quotable bit, they go for the next quotable bit. And really, that's fine. It's a Ron Burgundy-style work aesthetic that fits its hero and his purposes. And when you forget what you laughed at you'll just watch it again later after it leaves theaters for personal screens. Probably more than once. There's time for worrying about creeping Austin Powers-ism later, and we probably will. But for now, at least, the easy, dumb laughs hit the spot.