Wednesday, September 25, 2013

#1,136. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

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 thought 2004’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was one of the funniest movies ever made. I’m talking a “Top 10”-level comedy here, ranking right up there with Duck SoupThe Big Lebowski and Airplane! But having seen it a half dozen times now, the movie has dropped a few notches on my list. Anchorman is still funny; it would easily make my "Top 20". It just doesn't "wow" me like it used to.

It’s the mid 1970s, 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 core. 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). Though his team is none too pleased with the addition of a woman to their ranks, Ron Burgundy is immediately smitten with his new colleague, and before long, he and Veronica are an item. 

That changes, however, when a personal dilemma causes Ron to miss a broadcast, opening the door for Veronica to stand in as anchor. For Veronica, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime, but for Ron Burgundy, it’s a betrayal he will never forget.

Despite my initial remarks, I still think Anchorman is damn funny, with Ferrell’s portrayal of the arrogant, somewhat dim title character remaining a high point. I enjoyed Ferrell's "fish-out-of-water" 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. That said, I would rank Ron Burgundy above them all as my favorite Wil Ferrell character. The scenes where Burgundy displays 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).

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy also features some great scenes. I laughed out loud when Rudd's Brian Fantana tried to impress Veronica with his most expensive cologne, Black Panther (“I'm gonna be honest with you”, Ron says to Brian as he’s applying the scent, “that smells like pure gasoline”).  And then there are the star cameos, the best of which is Jack Black's biker, who, with a single action, shatters Ron Burgundy’s world.

So, why isn't Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy as funny to me now as it was a few viewings ago? Familiarity, perhaps? 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 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 the film before, you will laugh.. a lot! It’s only on repeat viewings that it loses a little steam.


Joe Blevins said...

Anchorman is a film of modest, yet undeniable charms. I had kind of the opposite reaction you had to it, in that I found it a little funnier on repeated viewings than I did when I saw it in the theater. I think a big part of enjoying the movie is getting into the very dated, macho, slightly sleazy vibe of the movie's characters who seem to be living out a childish male fantasy version of adulthood and place a lot of emphasis on suits, alcohol, and cologne. The gang rumble sequence, silly as it may be, is a good example. It starts with the revelation that they've been shopping for suits -- which fits with their image as strutting, arrogant peacocks. But then it builds on the idea that, for these guys, there's nothing more manly than getting in a street fight. These guys probably base their whole lives around action movies and cop shows, so they're totally ready to scrap when the time comes. It's what they've been waiting for since childhood. Ron knows instantly what to say: "Form a tight perimeter!" I think almost every American boy wants to grow up to be an action hero, so this is their way of living the dream, except it has actual consequences... which is something they don't even ponder until the next scene. ("Boy... that escalated quickly.")


I agree with Joe. This stands as a cult classic because you can view it multiple times and see something cool.