Universal // 2004 // 98 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Maurice Cobbs (Retired) // September 19th, 2005
"It is anchorman, not anchorlady! And that is a scientific fact!" -- Champ Kind
I'm going to say this -- loudly, just to make sure those of you in the back can hear:
The seventies sucked.
Seriously. I'm not kidding. I know. I was there. Like aged hippies who claimed that if you remembered the sixties, you weren't there, this aging curmudgeon is telling you that if you think the seventies were cool, you didn't grow up in 'em. You want to know about the seventies? High inflation, higher unemployment, fuel crisis, Sir Broil, blindingly awful colors and patterns, Nixon on one end and Jimmy Carter on the other. Gruesome artificial fabrics that created enough static electricity to power small countries. Wide lapels, wide ties, wide shirt collars...pants that could house a family of five in each leg. It was a dirty, ugly decade filled with ugly, boxy cars and uglier fashions, like leisure suits and white patent-leather shoes with matching belts. God help us, it spawned disco, a crime currently under investigation by the U.N. Human Rights Committee.
So...why am I laughing? Two words: Will Ferrell. With Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, he has done pretty much what Hogan's Heroes did: He has taken a horrific period of history and made it kinda funny.
"There was a time, a time before cable. When the local anchorman reigned supreme. When people believed everything they heard on TV. This was an age when only men were allowed to read the news. And in San Diego, one anchorman was more man then the rest. His name was Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell, Bewitched). He was like a god walking amongst mere mortals. He had a voice that could make a wolverine purr and suits so fine they made Sinatra look like a hobo. In other words, Ron Burgundy was the balls." -- narrator Bill Lawson (real-life journalist Bill Kurtis)
Ron and his Channel 4 News Team -- with features reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd, The Great Gatsby, 2000), a cologne-loving would-be lothario; rowdy yahoo sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner, The Dukes of Hazzard), and mentally deficient weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) -- are the number one local journalists in San Diego. When the intelligent, beautiful, and ambitious Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate, Employee of the Month) joins the newsroom, Ron is immediately smitten with her, and is isn't long before she reciprocates (against her better judgment). Unfortunately, the budding romance has a built-in rough spot: Veronica is determined to be taken seriously as a journalist, hoping to become the first female news anchor in history, but Ron, a clueless male chauvinist, sees her ambition only as a threat. Comedic shenanigans ensue.
"I don't know how to put this but I'm kind of a big deal...I'm very important. I have many very important leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany." -- Ron Burgundy
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, is ironically a lot like local news in the 1970s, offering up a variety of tidbits that aren't very satisfying in and of themselves, but when taken as a whole, create the illusion of substance. Although the premise is centered around 1970s male chauvinism, the script only examines this topic superficially. No big surprise here; although there is ample opportunity for social commentary, Ferrell and his crew aren't professors -- they're the class clowns. Accordingly, Anchorman is too chaotic to be much more than a wild and hysterical ride, apparently using similarly disjointed, alternately juvenile and surreal movies like Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me as a template. Anchorman seems less like a bona-fide movie and more like a series of short comedy sketches connected by a tenuous thread of plot.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I suppose it depends on your point of view or your individual tastes. Ad libbing can be funny, but too much of it and you come off like the class clown who made you laugh once at school and then spent the rest of the school year trying to make you laugh again. It's not a stretch to assume that Anchorman is not the first movie in which Will Ferrell improvised off-the-cuff comic gems, but I'll bet it's the first one that he's been free to do as he pleases (it seems that after all was said and done, there was enough surplus material cut from Anchorman that the filmmakers found it possible to edit together an entirely new film: Wake Up, Ron Burgundy). The result -- not unlike Kenneth Branaugh's Hamlet -- is excessive, self-indulgent, and only occasionally works. There are short bursts of screamingly funny material followed by long dry spells that hardly elicit a giggle. Ron Burgundy, like Austin Powers, could best be served by being featured in short skits -- an hour and a half is just too long to spend with these characters, and Anchorman (much like the two Austin Powers sequels) feels more like a vehicle for one of those one-note characters from SNL that are amusing in small doses but annoying after 10 minutes. Indeed, the special features material is often much funnier than the movie itself -- those comic shorts don't go on long enough to spoil the joke. The version that I'm reviewing here is the "Unrated, Uncut, & Uncalled For!" edition -- underscoring the juvenile nature of the movie, the back of the DVD promises that this edition is "Now with even more potty mouth!" So be it. From what I can see, the "Unrated" material adds up to a PG-13 at best -- maybe just barely scraping through to a light R; and the "Uncut" material only means that scenes ramble on perhaps a bit longer than they should; but "Uncalled For!"...It's really not funny to watch Ron walk around with a gigantic erection. It's...well, uncalled for.
If it seems like I'm being harsh towards Anchorman, I'm not exactly...For the most part, I enjoyed it a great deal. Although it drags in places under the weight of jokes drawn out too long and a seemingly endless array of cameos, in those brief moments when it all comes together, it practically zings with mischievous charm. Anchorman's saving grace is that Ron is just plain more likeable than, say, Mary Katherine Gallagher, Stuart Smalley, or even (dare I say it?) Austin Powers. Though he is often ridiculous in this movie, he is rarely ridiculed, and behind the pompous buffoonery of San Diego's most favored newscaster is an endearing quality that keeps him entirely sympathetic. Also, Ferrell's delivery and comic timing can squeeze a chuckle out of even the worst material.
Of course, it is his heady mix of juvenile potty humor and outré comic madness that has made Will Ferrell box-office gold and, for Anchorman, Ferrell and co-writer Adam McKay (making his feature-film directorial debut here) have assembled the cream of the current comedic crop -- a veritable Justice League of off-the-wall funnymen, with fantastic supporting players like Fred Willard (A Mighty Wind) and Saturday Night Live's Chris Parnell, but it is Steve Carell who routinely steals scenes as the staggeringly idiotic Brick Tamland. Frankly, these guys are having way too much fun to be collecting paychecks as well. Anchorman feels even less like a movie and more like a frat party with a multimillion-dollar budget when you factor in the exhausting number of cameos featured: Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Jack Black, Vince Vaughn, Danny Trejo, Tim Robbins, Neil Flynn...What the heck? "Hey, Tim, you got a couple of hours? Come on down and be in this movie. It'll be great, you get to chop a guy's arm off..." Sheesh. Even McKay's wife and child have a brief cameo. So...where's Christopher Walken?
Moving on to the special features, a montage of bloopers continues the impression that this movie was more play than work for most of the people involved. There's a healthy slice of deleted scenes, as well; I wonder how much of this material wound up in the Wake Up, Ron Burgundy movie? There's a pretty standard sort of "Making Of" documentary that probably aired on HBO as filler; not very meaty, but there is some neat audition footage with some of the cast members. Bill Kurtis spends about 10 minutes interviewing Ron Burgundy; Burgundy spends about a minute and a half interviewing Rebecca Romijn-Stamos at the MTV Movie Awards (before winding up in bed with her, the sly dog); there's his short and painful 1979 audition for a new specialty network called ESPN that seems, in Ron's eyes, predestined to flop; the music video for the movie's version of "Afternoon Delight," and some ho-hum cast & crew bios, production notes, and a trailer gallery. Most of the special features are mercifully brief, and therefore amusing, but the commentary suffers from the same problems as the movie: it drags on, with only a few notable moments of true hilarity (the segment in which Lou Rawls inexplicably joins the commentary is first among these) and a lot of material that just falls flat. Although Amazon.com lists a Ron Burgundy A&E Biography among this edition's special features, I could find no such feature included.
I said earlier that Anchorman was kinda funny, and that's exactly what it is. I can't exactly call it bad, but neither is it as good as you'd expect it to be. Not having seen the theatrical release of this movie, I have to wonder if that version is more restrained, more coherent -- or if it is simply shorter. Somehow, I doubt it, and that's a shame. Ron Burgundy never really lives up to his comic potential, but I'd be willing to give him another chance in another format...sketch comedy, or perhaps even a sitcom. Wake up, Will Ferrell!
Anchorman is what it is. It makes no pretense at being anything else, and despite its flaws, it delivers some good chuckles. Not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2005 Maurice Cobbs; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Commentary by Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, the Cast, and Guest Commentators Andy Richter and Lou Rawls
* "Afternoon Delight" Music Video
* The Making of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
* Deleted Scenes
* Ron Burgundy Interview with Bill Kurtis
* MTV Music Awards Interview with Rebecca Romijn-Stamos
* ESPN Audition
* Official Site