Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

| July 11, 2004

So will it be the Will Ferrell of Old School (loved it) or Elf (Haaaated it)? That was the question I had going in to see Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. With either, I knew it would be amusing but it was the level of amusement which had me wondering. I had just heard a lengthy interview with director and co-writer Adam McKay (former head writer on Saturday Night Live) on NPR so I had a good idea what I was walking into and what I would see… But still I was not sure.
Even after the movie I have the same feeling. Anchorman is funny and amusing, but like so many Saturday Night Live skits, I was left wondering if I had not heard that interview, would I have missed a lot of the jokes.
We are taken to the 1970’s before cable had 300 channels (100 of them trying to sell faux diamonds). If you wanted to know what was going on in your city, you watched the local 6 o’clock news. In San Diego, Ron Burgundy is the undisputed king of that half hour. This is where I am not sure I get the joke. Will Ferrell isn’t a bad looking guy, but he is no Will Smith. So are he (as co-writer) and McKay asking me to just go along?
The main story line we go through is the introduction of the first woman (the delicious Christina Applegate as Veronica Corningstone) on air news personality that comes to the city… In fact to Ron’s own station! Blasphemy he cries! “Blasphemy,” I wonder? In a series of minor and completely sophomoric sexist gags, Ferrell and his gang (will explain that term in a moment) show her that she is not welcome into the men’s club that is television reporting. Of course, a relationship between Burgundy and Corningstone must ensue; he is irresistible (really?) and she can not help herself (REALLY?).
Other plot lines revolve around the feuds between the rival news organizations and Ferrel’s own Channel 4 news “gang” including a full on gang fight between 5 local television channels where there is death and dismemberment but no repercussions. The best part of that story line are the cameo appearances (sshhhhh… won’t tell you… It would spoil the fun). I see this fight as funny but had no idea why it was here. From that same NPR interview, I knew to look for, and share with you, that a man on fire runs through the frame only because McKay had always wanted to have a man on fire in one of his movies. The rest of the film has a lot of those self indulgent moments where they would have an idea and say… “That goes in!” That lack of cohesiveness knocks Anchorman out of my ratings war.
The performances given are very good. Ferrell is surrounded by some good actors. His news team is made up of Paul Rudd (The Shape of Things, Tejing xinrenlei 2) as reporter Brian Fantana, David Loechner (Still Standing TV, My Boss’s Daughter) as the sports reporter and Steven Carrell (The Daily Show) as the idiot weather caster who, we learn early on is considered retarded. Carrell is the best of the bunch, you will remember him as Jim Carrey’s foil newscaster in Bruce Almighty. Loechner always sounded like he was doing an impression of one of Chris Farley’s many way too loud characters from SNL. I wonder where that inspiration came from? Hmmmmm. Applegate (View from the Top) is clearly past her days of Married With Children but I still can not help but think of her as the vapid Kelly Bundy.
McKay said that they filmed each scripted scene twice and then another two times allowing for improvisation. About one quarter of what they shot got into the film. Maybe a re-edit would have left me in stitches, I don’t know. But the fact is, Ferrell’s name alone will make Anchorman a financial splash. I just don’t think it adds much to his career credentials. My tip for Anchorman would be to wait for the DVD and rent it in order to hear the director/writer commentary track. Knowing the inside jokes will make Anchorman much funnier.

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