Should I Watch..? 'Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy'
What's the big deal?
Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy is a comedy film released in 2004 and was directed by Adam McKay who also co-wrote the film with star Will Ferrell. The film is a satirical look back at 1970's culture based within a male-dominated news crew who find their cosy work environment shattered by the arrival of an ambitious female reporter. The film also stars Paul Rudd, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell and David Koechner and was produced by Judd Atapow. The film was released to a warm reception from critics but the film only went on to make $90.6 million worldwide. However, the film became a cult classic and was followed in 2013 by a sequel Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. The film is now widely considered one of the funniest films from the 2000's and remains popular.
What's it about?
In 1973, the residents of San Diego trusted one man to bring them the local news every night on KVWN's Channel 4 - Ron Burgundy. A hard-partying ladies man, Burgundy was assisted on screen by super suave reporter Brian Fantana, overly enthusiastic sports reporter Champ Kind and dim-witted weather reporter Brick Tamland. Under the watchful gaze of station controller Ed Harken, the boys were king of the local news scene and were for a number of years.
However, the team is rocked by the arrival of female journalist Veronica Corningstone who Burgundy instantly takes a shine to. As the guys all take their turns trying to seduce Veronica, she insists on trying to become the first female anchor in the US which doesn't sit too well with the gang. As their opposition to Veronica's place on the team grows, can Burgundy keep his ego in check and allow his budding relationship to flourish or is it every man for themselves?
Edward "Ed" Harken
Adam McKay & Will Ferrell
Release Date (UK)
10th September, 2004
Razzie Award Nominations
Worst Actor (Ben Stiller)*
What's to like?
Personally, a comedy has to work very hard to get into my good books. It hasn't just got to make my laugh but it's got to have dialogue that you can easily recall and quote with as well as a rare desire for repeat viewing, something that is even more difficult for comedies. But Anchorman somehow manages all three. It is a very funny film, picking a target that is ripe for mockery and being utterly ruthless in exploiting every possible opportunity. From the awkwardness of live television to the worst of the Seventies excesses and the hilariously rampant sexism that should have been consigned to history along with an aftershave called Sex Panther. The film misses few chances to make you laugh so on that front, this film is a winner.
Ferrell delivers a deliciously over-the-top performance as Burgundy that suits the film's excessive nature anyway. But the real star is Carell as Tamland who is just magnificent - he has the best lines, the best scenes and is wonderfully stupid! The film's humour does get a little odd at times but with seasoned comic performers from top to bottom, the film manages to make it work. The film has plenty of cameos from the likes of Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Luke Wilson and even Danny Trejo but they all work within the confines of this very silly movie. I enjoyed immensely and to be honest, I was surprised. I wasn't convinced of Ferrell's status as an A-list comedy performer but this film changed my opinion. He's good but I prefer Carell, personally.
- The film was pitched to Dreamworks more than twenty times, who weren't convinced Ferrell and McKay could pull it off. No wonder - the original script was a spoof of Alive where Burgundy crashed a plane full of news anchors in the mountains and they fought for survival against monkeys armed with ninja-stars.
- Ron plays jazz flute in a style similar to Ian Anderson, the frontman and flautist of the band Jethro Tull. Not only does Ron blurt out "Hey Aqualung!" at the end of his song (Aqualung being a song of theirs) but also mimics the pose of the flautist logo of the band. Incidentally, the song Aqualung doesn't have any flute in it.
- Many of the cast members improvised their lines, often trying as many as twenty different versions of their lines to get genuine reactions. McKay had so much additional footage that he created a new version of the film that had the news team tracking down a bunch of hippie bank robbers.
What's not to like?
The film certainly has an unusual sense of humour at times which made me wonder whether they were making the film for themselves. Take the sense where Jack Black's biker kicks Burgundy's dog Baxter off a bridge - it doesn't fit in with the rest of the film and other than Ferrell's wounded alpha-male howling in a phone booth, I couldn't see why it was included. The news-team fight scene also feels a little like that but it redeems itself by being utterly hilarious. What I'm trying to say is that the film could have benefited from a little trimming of meaningless sequences and maybe a bit more of the news-room antics between Burgundy and Corningstone.
But once you get your head in the right frame of mind, Anchorman is possibly the funniest film of Ferrell's career thus far. Elf is a feel-good festive flick that isn't quite as funny while Blades Of Glory takes much the same approach of this film, except focusing on the bizarre world of professional ice-skating. His subsequent films have never quite matched the sheer, unadulterated madness of this film, due in part because he hasn't had a supporting cast quite like this one (other than the sequel, obviously) and partly because his comedies have tendered to be more generic like The Other Guys.
Should I watch it?
If nothing else, Anchorman proves that Ferrell is as gifted a writer as he is a performer. But the film is a sublime mix of silliness, stupidity and supremely talented actors who each bring something to the film. With its endlessly quotable dialogue, amusing set pieces and enough moments that make go "what the hell?", this film would go a long way to cementing Ferrell's status as Hollywood's leading comic actor if it weren't for co-star Carell stealing the limelight.
Great For: Ferrell's comic credentials, actual local news teams, audiences crying out for a genuinely funny film
Not So Great For: chauvinists, blokes still living in the Seventies, jazz flute
What else should I watch?
After Ferrell debuted on Saturday Night Live back in 1995, it took some time before he started appearing in lead roles in movies. After cameos in Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery and its sequel, A Night At The Roxbury and a supporting role in Zoolander, Ferrell finally took the lead in Old School which led to his breakthrough performance in festive favourite Elf. But despite showcasing his dramatic side in films like Stranger Than Fiction, Ferrell's film have tended to be financially successful without hitting the same heights seen here. His most recent outing, the poorly received Holmes & Watson, also failed to set the box office on fire so perhaps his time at the time might be coming to an end?
Perhaps his future lies in voice work like so many former SNL alumni like Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy. Ferrell's vocal talents worked well in both Curious George and Megamind while The Lego Movie proved a massive success as well. However, Ferrell has also balanced his movie work with frequent TV appearances which might explain why his movies aren't blazing a comic trail through theatres any more. However, he's made his money so I can't imagine he's too bothered!
© 2019 Benjamin Cox