© 2004 Ray Wong
There seems to be a current trend in comedy: Let’s bring back the good old 70s, because it is funny! Nostalgia first brought us STARSKY & HUTCH. Now we have ANCHORMAN, a slapstick comedy about the bizarre world of broadcast news in the early 70s.
Ron Burgundy is the anchorman at KVWN News, the number one news program in San Diego. He is a knucklehead and a dimwit, but loved by everyone. His team include sportscaster Champ, weatherman Brick, and lifestyle reporter Brian – a group of overgrown frat boys in leisure suits.
When beautiful reporter Veronica Cornerstone enters their world, her presence threatens their testosterone balance and male sensibility (yeah, right). Not to mention her ambition to become the first network female anchor. Naturally, Ron and Veronica fall in love, and their relationship and professional rivalry come into direct conflict.
Ferrell and McKay have created a collection of absurd and hilarious characters in ANCHORMAN. The humor is sophomoric and zany, but judging from the audience, the laughs are frequent, big and real. The plot is simple enough. That’s part of the pleasure; to be able to set your brain aside to enjoy some mindless laughs. The satirical humor is on the mark, and works well especially if you have lived through the 70s and heard a thing or two about the goings-on in broadcast news. For example, we can’t help but chuckle when the biggest news of the year is the birth of a panda bear.
However, not all the jokes work. Almost every scene in which the KVWN team confronts their rivals falls flat and becomes tedious. The scene where they engage in a street fight is excessive and pointless. Also, a lot of what’s on screen is improvised – some of it works, some doesn’t.
If the script is inconsistent, the cast is largely superb and comedic performance is probably one of ANCHORMAN’s biggest strength. After ELF finally elevated Ferrell as a bona fide star, he gives us another deliciously absurd character named Ron. His comic timing is pitch perfect. He can make you laugh just by staring into the camera with an arched eyebrow. Applegate (VIEW FROM THE TOP) is funny as Veronica, contrasting Ferrell’s simplicity and cluelessness with smarts and a dose of snideness. Rudd (HOUSE HUNTING), Koechner (A GUY THING) and Willard (A MIGHTY WIND) all give stellar supporting effort. The standout is Carell (BRUCE ALMIGHTY) as the “retarded” Brick – he manages to steal every scene from his hilarious co-stars. We also enjoy notable cameos by Ferrell’s friends such as Jack Black, Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Tim Robbins, and Ben Stiller.
I must say I did enjoy ANCHORMAN, but wish that it were shorter and more consistent. I wish that the filmmakers have done a better job trimming the fat and tightening the script. I feel that there are missed opportunities that could have made the film so much funnier and sharper. I keep having the feeling like I am watching a very long Saturday Night Live skit. I like the performers and I like what they are trying to do. But there are times when I can’t help but look at my watch and wonder when the movie is going to end. And that is not a good sign.
Stars: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steven Carell, David Koechner, Fred Willard
Director: Adam McKay
Writers: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for alcohol, drugs, sexuality, violence, crude humor
Script – 5
Performance – 7
Direction – 5
Cinematography – 6
Editing – 6
Production – 6
Total – 5.7 out of 10