Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
2004Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell
nchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgundy achieves such a manic pace to its humor that the brilliance of it almost transcends words. Lodged somewhere between satire and spoof, Anchorman is perhaps the most bizarre comedy I’ve ever seen. In a way, it’s the product of simply allowing Will Ferrell to run with a concept as far as he’s willing to take it. That it’s somewhat less focused and charming than Elf is a consequence of its indulgence, but by no means should we view this as a liability.
It contains the same reckless abandon one might see in a undergrad film project in which the creators rely on in-jokes among their peers and cameos by other friends in roles they find amusing (hey, wouldn’t it be funny if we got Ben Stiller to play a Mexican?). However, since Ferrell’s comic world is a bit more universal than your average student film, we all get the jokes no matter how disjunctive and plotless the film becomes.
One might complain that without a firm story, the movie could become quite alienating. But do we really need focus in a story about a pompous, womanizing news anchor who feels emasculated after the network decides to add a woman to the news team? Perhaps in a more serious film, but here it would be counterproductive to the giddy nature of it all.
The common mistake in comedies of this caliber is to assume that we’d rather focus on a hackneyed plot sprinkled with nonsensical humor than to ignore all the faux-romantic bullshit and simply laugh at well-timed jokes. Anchorman revolves around a tired, clichéd plot that hints at a romantic element but cleverly avoids going too far down that road.
Instead it finds time to devote ten minutes or so to an epic gladiator battle between rival news teams in which weatherman Brick Tamland (played by ex-Daily Show news correspondent Steve Carell) stabs another newscaster with a trident. Sound absurd? It is.
At another point during sex between Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), she asks him to take her to “Pleasure Town,” after which we cut to an animated sequence of said destination in which Burgundy and Corningstone ride horses and slide down rainbows. What other comic actor working in Hollywood today could get away with such a ridiculous idea and make it work so successfully?
Ferrell’s comedy is the focus here, but he’s also loaded his cast with a number of invaluable supporting characters. Fred Willard, in particular, has a hilarious running gag of being interrupted during phone conversations concerning his son’s disturbances at school that escalate from being caught with German porn to holding the entire marching band hostage.
Yet, for all its bizarre plot twists, absurdly named characters and juvenile sense of humor, it still manages to get in a few slight satirical jabs at the media. For one, the network only seems concerned with stories about cute animals. Indeed, at one point, one newscaster describes the birth of a baby panda as “the most important story in the world.”
Ms. Corningstone’s requests to cover more significant stories are not well received. These are the news stories that people demand. People want to see the cat fashion show, it’s true. The girl sitting next to me in the theater certainly thought the cat in the cowboy outfit was awfully cute. Unfortunately, she didn’t find it quite as amusing when later on in the film a dog is punted over the edge of a bridge. Go figure.
There’s really not much else to say about Anchorman, other than to individually cite the jokes present in the film, thus spoiling all the fun. If you can’t stand the comedy of Will Ferrell, sitting through this would be an extremely grueling task. It’s not something you walk out of feeling a little more enlightened or profoundly changed. Some comedies are meant to affect you in that way, but by then they’ve already transcended the genre.
No, Anchorman is not that type of film, but it’s damn funny nonetheless.