There are a lot of people who absolutely love “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”. I’ve heard so many people talk about its hilarity and give it rave reviews. Yet I have stayed away from it for several reasons, mainly Will Ferrell. I know most people love the guy and find him hysterical, but I can only handle his brand of humor in small doses. Another turnoff for me was seeing that “Anchorman” is a Judd Apatow production. Again, I know Apatow’s movies have a big audience but I’m not into his insistent crass and raunchy style. So the question becomes why would I watch this film? Simply put, I’ve been asked about this movie so many times that I felt I should give it an objective look.
Let me get this out of the way first. “Anchorman” isn’t as bad as I feared. In fact it has several clever gags and some laugh-out-loud funny moments. But it also has the same flat and unfunny “humor” that plagues most of Ferrell’s movies. And of course Apatow’s dull raunchy influence is found at different points throughout the film. It’s really a shame because I like good absurdist comedy and “Anchorman” has a lot of that. But there are also several moments where the movie thinks it’s a lot funnier than it actually is. This roller coaster ride between funny and unfunny scenes can be a little taxing.
Ferrell plays Ron Burgundy, a beloved and legendary anchorman for San Diego’s #1 ranked Channel 4 News. His popularity is citywide and he’s considered the big fish in the San Diego news reporting community. He rolls with his news team consisting of his loud and obnoxious sportscaster “Champ” Kind (David Koechner), his fashion-conscience field reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), and team weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) who is basically the village idiot and that’s saying something considering the company of clowns he keeps. The four are given a pretty long leash by their boss Ed Harken (Fred Willard) and they spend it partying with newsroom groupies.
The film is set in the 1975 and it spends a lot of time spoofing the male-dominated society of the time. Burgundy and company view women as a lesser species whose main purpose is to serve them and their “needs”. Of course their sexism is so insanely over the top that it’s often times quite funny. That sets up quite a clash when these moronic Neanderthals learn that, in the interest of diversity, the station has hired a beautiful news reporter named Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). Ron thinks it’s a ridiculous idea and that there’s no room for women in the news room. But he underestimates Veronica’s tenacity and ambition. He also underestimates her irresistible beauty and charm, and his attraction to her jeopardizes his role as a chauvinistic icon.
Ferrell co-wrote the script and I assume he tried to cater his role to his style of comedy. He has his moments where he’s very funny but there are also several times where his character’s gags land with a thud. Some of his jokes are so shallow and poorly written that they resemble material you would hear during a subpar comedy club’s amateur hour. But Ferrell does provide some good laughs especially when he’s swapping lines with his team. But overall I don’t think he’s the funniest character in the film. For me it was Steve Carell. He’s a complete space cadet and he had me laughing nearly every time he spoke. I also thought Applegate was very good as the straight person in the midst of a ton of lunacy. There’s also some really fun scenes with Willard. He’s a guy that can be very funny if given the right material.
There are several cool touches that make the movie fun. I loved Bill Curtis’ pitch-perfect narration. The hyper-70’s wardrobes and hairstyles are a blast and the whole parody of the 70’s network news scene worked for me. Ferrell and gang play within this period sandbox and they’re clearly having a ton of fun. There are also a host of interesting cameos that pop up along the way. Some work while others are pretty pointless. I also have to tip my hat to Ferrell’s willingness to humiliate himself to get a laugh. It doesn’t always work but more often it does.
“Anchorman” actually attempts to provide some social commentary within its outlandish humor but I don’t think it pulls it off. For me it’s a film better appreciated as an insanely silly and preposterous comedy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately it’s a terribly uneven film and you have to wade through numerous flat and unfunny jokes to get to the good stuff. It seems that for every hilarious gag “Anchorman” gives you two boring and lazy ones. And of course there’s the Apatow signature toilet humor that’s just as cheap and annoying as in Judd’s other pictures. And it’s really a shame. “Anchorman” has a number of great scenes and I found myself laughing out loud numerous times. Unfortunately I found myself rolling my eyes just as much.