Anchorman: The
Legend of Ron Burgundy

directed by Adam McKay
(DreamWorks, 2004)

Like 2003's Old School, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is designed as a vehicle for the off-kilter humor of Will Ferrell.

It's tough to tell where you can draw the line between a "script," credited here to Ferrell and Adam McKay (who also directs), and the improvisational skills of Ferrell and his sidekicks. But I can tell you this: If you're offended by innuendo, 1970s-style macho humor, potty jokes and free use of the male anatomy as a descriptive device, then Anchorman should stay on the shelf.

But if you're happy to hear that all those traits above are not only the core of Anchorman, but are used more inventively than usual, then loosen the buttons on your wide-lapeled leisure suit and head back to a time when TV news anchors all were men, scotch was the drink of choice and ambitious women didn't have a glass ceiling -- they were simply locked out of the station altogether.

The ambitious woman in question here is Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). Her arrival at the television news station in San Diego is met with equal parts derision and lust by her male colleagues: Brian Fantana, Brick Tamland, Champ Kind and, of course, Ron Burgundy (who, as played by Ferrell, sounds quite a bit like Ted Baxter on the old Mary Tyler Moore Show. He's about as bright, too).

Veronica, of course, is just about the only person in the newsroom who has use of all her faculties and, of course, the guys are completely clueless that they are outclassed.

Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) considers Veronica worthy of bringing out his secret weapon: a reeking black flask of Panther cologne. "It's made with bits of real panther," he boasts, "so you know it's good."

Silly stuff ensues, much of it from an anchorman who will read absolutely anything that scrolls by on the teleprompter, and whose tag line to close each broadcast is "You stay classy, San Diego!" (And really, how much worse is that than "Courage"?)

"I don't know how to tell you this," Ron says upon meeting Veronica, "but I'm kind of a big deal ... I own many leather-bound books, and my apartment smells like rich mahogany." Of course, Ron and Veronica loathe each other. Of course, they fall in love.

It's all just an excuse for Ferrell and an endless stream of cameo actors to joke their way through the '70s.

There are Ferrell's buddies from Saturday Night Live, with Chris Parnell and Fred Armisen leading the charge (director McKay is a former SNL head writer). There's Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller and Tim Robbins as rival newsmen (the liberal Robbins is a good fit as a wild-haired, pipe-smoking PBS newscaster); Jack Black as an angry biker; and newsman/American Justice host Bill Kurtis as the narrator.

None of it will change the world of film comedy; it's just another addition to Ferrell's canon of goofball humor. But if that's the kind of humor you love, then tune in to Anchorman.

- Rambles
written by Jen Kopf
published 2 April 2005

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