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Sometimes attacking in a rather random and disjointed fashion, Anchorman pokes fun at under mined comedic territory: Seventies TV anchors. In doing so, it’s impossible not to laugh at this massive skit, a delightful mishmash of left-field jokes and for some, uncomfortably sexist humor. The result is almost certainly one of the funniest movies of the year and for Will Ferrell, the first movie he’s done that’s a real reflection of Will’s own sense of humor.
In it, Will Ferrell is the glass ceiling. Literally. In the Seventies, or so the narrator claims, MEN read the news. In San Diego, no one read it better than Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell). Read he does, right off the old teleprompter. In fact he’ll read anything off that teleprompter, including incorrect punctuation. Still, in his town Ron Burgundy is a hero. A local icon, cock of the walk, Burgundy rules the news with the help of his crack news team. All men of course. This is the seventies after all. So if you’re prone to filing suit for sexual harassment, you’ll probably be pissed off. Because when the network forces the station manager (Fred Willard) to hire a female reporter, the men don’t see anything wrong with playing a little grab-ass. With the tree house invaded by the sexy Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), the men fall into a panic. At first Burgundy doesn’t notice because he’s fallen in love, but for his partially retarded Channel 4 News Team the world is crumbling around them.
One of the great things about Anchorman is that you haven’t seen all the best bits in the trailers. In fact a lot of what you saw in the ads isn’t even in the movie… and none of it is missed. Ferrell and co-writer/director Adam McKay claim to have so much extra, hilarious footage from this film that they’ve made another movie from it and stuck it on the DVD. It’s easy to see how that could happen, Anchorman is a wealth of wickedly stupid humor, the type that’s so dumb it could only ever be thought up by someone intimidatingly smart.
Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy is hopelessly juvenile and terminally inappropriate. He’s so completely unpredictable that he’s also ridiculously funny. One moment he’s on a date, the next he’s up on stage shooting flames from a jazz flute. Unwilling to settle solely for pyrotechnics, Burgundy cavorts into the audience playing his magic music on their tables, crushing glasses, and popping his head up in unlikely places. Anchorman and Ferrell are always willing to take things one step farther than you’d expect. The result is comedy that is impossible to anticipate, unstoppable belly laughs garnered purely from the shock of where Ferrell takes the joke next.
Should Ferrell run out of places to go, his capable news crew is there to kick in some more. Steve Carrell repeatedly blindsided me with insane comments that seem to just come from out of the blue. “I love lamp,” quips his confused and spastic weatherman Brick Tamland in the middle of a conversation about the intricacies of love (which invariably leads Ron to explain his feelings by leading a barbershop quartet-like singalong). David Koechner’s cowboy hat wearing sportscaster made me consistently uncomfortable and Paul Rudd’s reporter on the scene Fantana is worth seeing just to pick out the disturbed intricacies in his fighting pose. Even Christina Applegate gets in a few good shots, willing as she is to put up with just about any humiliating thing her fellow cast mates can throw at her.
Though by all accounts this movie has a crisp script, you get the feeling that half of it was improvised on the spot. That perhaps once they got rolling on set, they just couldn’t stop. That the talent pool on this cast was so deep, somewhere around day two of filming they simply abandoned the printed page after realizing they were coming up with better stuff just giving each other the giggles. Cameos from people like Tim Robbins, Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Vince Vaughn only spice the cast chemistry up.
While perhaps Ron Burgundy isn’t the iconic character that Frank the Tank is, nor destined to become a holiday staple like Will’s character in Elf, he is a work of comedy genius from a guy who’s rapidly becoming the only really funny thing left in Hollywood. Though it suffers somewhat from a hastily thrown together “everything works out in the end” finale, Anchorman is the sort of movie that seems to only get better the more I think about it, the kind of comedy film that will only get funnier the more you watch it. Whether he’s fighting Kodiak bears or throwing burritos at bikers, Ron Burgundy is the perfect outlet for Will’s unique brand of sincere witticism. Anchorman is Will Ferrell’s Austin Powers, here’s hoping he gets a sequel.