Directed By: Adam McKay
Starring: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell
Tag line: "They bring you the news so you don't have to get it yourself"
Trivia: The zoo scenes take place at the old Los Angeles Zoo that closed in 1965
There was a time when I considered 2004’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy one of the funniest movies I’d ever seen. I’m talking a “Top 10”-level comedy here, ranking alongside such greats as The Big Lebowski and Airplane! But after watching this movie a half dozen times, it’s dropped a few notches on my list. Anchorman is still funny (it would easily make my "Top 20"); it's just not as hilarious as I first thought.
It’s the mid-‘70s, and Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) anchors the top-rated news program in all of San Diego. With his trusty Channel 4 news team at his side, including beat reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Champ Kind (David Koechner) on sports, and weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), Burgundy regularly trounces the competition in the ratings, and is one of the city’s most beloved personalities. But a change is coming that will rock the news room to its very foundation. At a daily meeting, station manager Ed Harken (Fred Willard) announces Channel 4 has hired its first female reporter: the feisty, ambitious Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). While his team is none too pleased about the sudden addition of a woman to their ranks, Ron Burgundy is immediately smitten with his new colleague, and before long, he and Veronica are a hot item. That changes, however, when, thanks to a personal dilemma, Ron fails to show up one night to report the news, opening the door for Veronica to stand in as Anchor. For her, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime, but for Ron Burgundy, it’s a betrayal he will never forget.
Anchorman is definitely funny. Ferrell’s portrayal of the arrogant, somewhat dim title character remains a high point for me. In fact, it’s my favorite of the actor’s performances. To some, that may seem like faint praise, but I enjoyed his fish-out-of-water character in Elf, and am a fan of a number of his other films, including Old School, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Step Brothers, and The Campaign. The scenes where Burgundy insists on showing his ignorance are hysterical. While giving Veronica a tour of the town, he can’t remember what “San Diego” translates to in English. “I don't think anyone knows what it means anymore”, he says. “Scholars maintain that the translation was lost hundreds of years ago” (when Veronica points out that it means “Saint Diego”, Ron insists it doesn’t). The movie also features some great scenes (I love it when Brian Fantana, to impress Veronica, dips into Black Panther, his most expensive cologne. “I'm gonna be honest with you”, Ron says to Brian as he’s applying the scent, “that smells like pure gasoline”) and a number of fun cameos (the best of which has Jack Black as a biker who, in a single action, shatters Ron Burgundy’s world).
So, why don’t I find Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy as funny now as I did a few viewings ago? Familiarity, perhaps? For the most part, jokes are never as good when you hear them repeated. But then, I’ve seen Blazing Saddles, Life of Brian, Duck Soup, Bringing Up Baby, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, even Kingpin more often than I have Anchorman, and those movies still crack me up. Ultimately, I think the problem is that, mixed in with its best scenes, Anchorman has a number of goofy moments that, on an initial viewing, are wacky enough to make you laugh, but don’t hold up over time. When I first saw the “rumble” sequence, where the Channel 4 crew dukes it out with every other news team in town, I thought it was hilarious (especially when Brick killed a rival newsman with a trident). Watching it again today, the whole thing just seemed silly.
Don’t get me wrong: Anchorman has a lot going for it, and if you’ve never seen this film before, you will laugh (probably quite a bit). It’s only on repeat viewings that the movie loses some of its steam.