Movie review by Greg Carlson
“Anchorman” is one of the strangest, funniest, and most oddly satisfying comic vehicles to appear in a long time. Granted, you must be a fan of Will Ferrell in order to enjoy the film – if you don’t like him, you are in for a very long hour and a half. Continuing to capitalize on his big screen successes in “Old School” and the smash hit “Elf,” Ferrell pulls out all the stops with title character Ron Burgundy, a Scotch-swilling male-chauvinist moron who happens to be the most popular news reader in 1970s San Diego. Burgundy’s world is turned upside down when he begins to experience genuine feelings for his new co-worker, the smart and talented Veronica Corningstone (a solid Christina Applegate).
Despite casting her lot in the male-dominated local news business, Veronica is driven, and knows that she can become the first woman to anchor a network news program. Ron, clueless and self-absorbed to the point of ridiculous hubris, honestly believes that Veronica doesn’t have a chance, and after an embarrassing workplace erection and a gonzo turn on the jazz flute at a local nightclub, ends up successfully wooing her. Of course, co-screenwriters Ferrell and Adam McKay are only warming up, and both men know that Ferrell the performer is at his most brilliant when playing broken, devastated fools deserving of their cosmic comeuppance. You can imagine that Ron is headed for a doozy of a fall.
It is for this reason that “Anchorman” really improves and gets more hilarious as it chugs along. The movie is crammed with one-liners, non sequiturs, sight gags, and plenty of nonsensical wordplay – all of which add up to a journey that is richly rewarding for the folks who loved Ferrell’s characterizations on SNL: “Inside the Actor’s Studio” host James Lipton, Vegas crooner Robert Goulet, lusty academic Roger Klarvin, and music legend Neil Diamond. Ron Burgundy contains glimmers of them all, and “Anchorman” is the better movie for it.
As “Anchorman” director Adam McKay demonstrated in many of his short films that were played on episodes of SNL, loony, impossible-to-explain occurrences can easily reside alongside trivial, mundane existence when approached with an open mind. In “Anchorman,” this sort of surrealism is made possible by Ferrell’s sensational supporting cast: the great David Koechner as hyper sportscaster Champ Kind, Steven Carell as imbecilic weatherman Brick Tamland, and Paul Rudd as investigative reporter Brian Fantana. With Burgundy as their ringleader, you never know when a cappella office harmonizing will lift “Afternoon Delight” to heights never before imagined.
McKay and Ferrell are not shy about stretching for any gag, no matter how out there, and “Anchorman” goes bananas with a cameo-infested, knock-down brawl between several rival news teams (riffing on spaghetti westerns and gladiator movies in one swipe). The movie has so much in the way of bombastic madness, including an animated sequence, vintage stock nature footage, and intelligent animals that communicate in subtitles, that it is nothing short of amazing that the story pretty much sticks to a predictable, linear plot. Setting aside Ron’s Channel 4 news team pals, “Anchorman” just does not have enough time to give to its other supporting players, like Chris Parnell and Fred Willard. This is a minor complaint, however, because this is Ferrell’s show, and everything else is just icing on the cake.
This review was originally published in the High Plains Reader the week of 7/12/04.