Going with the concept of “giving credit where credit is due” I have to hand it to the big Blu-ray version of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. While I’m not in the Burgundy cult and don’t care to stay classy, San Diego, I have to hand it to “The Rich Mahogany Edition” of Will Ferrell’s 2004 comedy -- it’s a great treat for fans.
I happen to live in San Diego, and while I was a local news buff growing up, I don’t quite remember anyone like Will Ferrell’s comic creation, Ron Burgundy. The “legendary anchor” of the 1970s Channel 4 News Team in my hometown is a man’s man from an era when being a man’s man was pretty much synonymous with being an asshole. Ferrell and his three News Team amigos (Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, and David Koechner) rule in a male-dominated world. They drink Scotch, wear Sexy Panther aftershave, and slap secretaries on the ass while reporting on things like waterskiing squirrels.
Unfortunately, Ron’s bachelor pad and leisure-suit lifestyle is disrupted by the hiring of Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), who wants to get away from puff pieces and into the anchor chair. As the News Team boys complain to boss Fred Willard, “It’s anchorMAN, not anchorLADY!” a battle between the chauvinists and girl power is waged, incorporating one of the greatest bits in the movie, where Ron reads his teleprompter on-air without realizing what he is saying. Of course, the conflict inside the newsroom is complicated by the increasing attraction between Ron and Veronica, not to mention Ron’s amazingly ridiculous and inept attempts to woo his lady fair.
That pretty much does it for anything resembling a plot. Anchorman has a legion of ardent admirers who quote lines and refer to “classic” scenes. However, there are an equal number that feel that the fact that these guys have ridiculous hair, mustaches, drink Scotch, smoke cigarettes, and have un-PC attitudes towards “the ladies” does not a movie make. I fall more in the middle; the movie is funny, but not THAT funny. It’s a solid comedy with more hits than misses.
Ferrell and director Adam McKay wrote the script, but considering the actors involved and that this is a Judd Apatow production, you know that half the lines were probably ad-libbed. That could be the problem, or maybe it’s just that the plot is so paper thin that it comes across more as a series of sketches than a complete movie. Either way, it’s a long way from the comic genius some adherents have taken it for.
More positively, though, this was before Ferrell’s shtick got tiresome from overuse, and he is a man perfectly matched to the element of 1970s jackassery. He still overacts at times, but he’s ably supported by Rudd, Carell, and Koechner, and Applegate holds her own in a less flashy but still substantial supporting part. There is also a great cameo cavalcade (Stiller! Robbins! One of those Wilson brothers!) as the News Team meets the other stations' on-air personalities in a surprisingly violent gang fight.
Six years later, it’s unlikely the movie hasn’t already crossed your radar and given you your own unshakeable opinion. I think it’s a one-joke movie where the joke is pretty funny and is being told by some talented people, but it’s still pretty much one-joke, and how much can you do with that? If you’re in a ridiculous mood and Ferrell hasn’t worn out his welcome with you, you’ll probably wring enough laughs out of it to be worth your time.
Despite being nothing more than an average comedy, the Anchorman Blu-ray is, frankly, excellent. If you have any interest in this movie, never mind if you are big fan, this is a set you'll want to pick up. “The Rich Mahogany Edition” is lengthy treasure trove of all things that people love about Ferrell, McKay, and Apatow's projects. Two discs include three feature-length movies (ok, one’s not so great and the other two are basically identical) that are supplemented by tons of extra material and some…unique…commentaries. All in beautiful HD! Well, some of the extras are in SD, but let’s not quibble.
First, the three versions of the film. The theatrical version and an unrated extended version are both included on disc one. I can’t really see how they are different, exactly, but the extended version is longer and seems to have more bad words. Since I’m not totally ga-ga for, but did enjoy, the original movie, I’m not sure I see the extended cut as a big improvement, but at least both choices are there for those of you who like a few more f-words in the mix. The third version is the most unique. Called Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie, it’s 90 minutes of unused or alternate scenes built around a fairly elaborate subplot that was completely excised from the movie. It obviously has the exact same tone and joke types as the actual movie, but I do think it’s a clever way to show deleted scenes. Still, if you think Anchorman is thinly plotted (and you should), then it looks like Citizen Kane when compared to this offshoot. It’s the sort of thing you would be a fool to buy separately but will enjoy as part of this package.
All three movies come with some form of commentary, although none of the commentaries really follow the traditional commentary guidelines. Instead, they all serve as comedy bits that you listen to while watching a version of Anchorman with the sound turned off. The two versions of the actual movie have commentaries “anchored” (get it!?!) by Ferrell and McKay, and they do their best to talk very little about the movie and just talk about…everything. It’s funny, like a comedy record, but won’t give you insight into the movie. Although really, how much insight do you need? The commentaries include guest appearances by Paul Rudd, David Koechner, and Christina Applegate (which makes sense), as well as Andy Richter, Kyle Gass, and Lou Rawls (which really doesn’t.) It’s all pretty funny, though, in some cases funnier than the movie. There is also a 12-minute commentary at the beginning of Wake Up, Ron burgundy that features Ferrell playing the straight man and McKay pretending to be non-existent executive producer Aaron Zimmerman. It’s really, really hard to describe their conversation, but it is very, very, VERY funny.
As though the 90 minutes of Wake Up, Ron Burgundy isn’t enough, there is an additional 53 minutes of deleted and extended scenes provided. That’s right, this movie generated in the neighborhood of two and a half hours of extra material. The good thing about being almost sketch-like in the plot, the deleted scenes are often funny even when pulled out of the context of the movie. But even that’s not enough, as another 40 minutes of “Raw Footage” is included. These are various scenes with the actors doing different readings or ad-libbed lines. They cover what you’ve already seen in the movie, but maybe a different line in the same place is shown as well. By the end of the three hours of EXTRA footage, even the hard-coriest Burgundy fan will probably be satisfied.
After the extra scenes and moments and subplots, there are still tons of extras. The most interesting are the nine minutes of “Bloopers,” which are basic bloopers but still funny, and the “Cast Auditions” for about everyone except Ferrell. The real treat here is not seeing Steve Carell read for Brick, it’s seeing him read for Brian Fontana, which is in the “Alternate Universe” section. That’s where David Koechner reads for Brick and Maya Rudolph reads for Veronica and other fun alternate casting ideas.
The movie doesn’t have much as far as “making-of” featurettes, but there were three produced around the time of the movie’s release. Each is about 10 minutes long. One was shown on Comedy Central and another on Cinemax. They are pretty standard. The final one is a faux-interview by narrator Bill Kurtis with Ron Burgundy. It’s funny in the same way the movie is funny. Ferrell plays him as such a chauvinistic a-hole that you just laugh at his answers, his vocal inflections, his hair, his clothes, everything.
That doesn’t even finish off the extras. There is the “Afternoon Delight” music video that can be watched in conjunction with the “Making of Afternoon Delight,” showing Ferrell, Rudd, Koechner, and Carell in the recording studio. There is a hilarious table read where laughter drowns out every other line. Also, several of the actors are either uncast or missing, so their lines are read by anonymous actors who are actually damn good, and funny.
The final package of extras includes Ferrell as Burgundy doing a bunch of different things. One is a collection of PSA’s, which include such gems as “be nice to hippies” and “do what the government tells you.” There is an acceptance speech for an Emmy award that turns into a diatribe about his father’s love. Burgundy auditioning for ESPN is funny but goes for the obvious laugh of “a 24-hour sports channel, that’s not going to work…” Burgundy interviewed a few people during the 2004 MTV awards, and while his questions are funny, it’s obvious the interview subjects (including Burt Reynolds) are giving scripted answers. It’s more fun to have them doing things off the cuff. Finally, Burgundy wishes a theater chain a happy 100th birthday. Rudd and Carell are featured in some remote news story video that was probably going to be incorporated into the movie newscast that’s somewhat humorous.
There is well in excess of four hours of extras if you include the Wake Up, Ron Burgundy, and I might have left out one or two small things. It’s truly impressive, and for fans of the movie, it’s a real treasure trove. If you’re just so-so about the film, it’s more than you would ever need, but you can’t fault their willingness to throw everything into something for a fan. The package even comes with 12 trading cards showcasing the characters and a copy of Burgundy’s datebook. It’s amazing to get all this stuff and worth it for the dedicated fan.