July 2004
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Ferrell Goes All Out to Bring You the News

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Ferrell Goes All Out to Bring You the News
by Jeremy Mathews
Will Ferrell's Ron Burgundy and his news team from "Anchorman" get in schoolboy-type insult matches with their competitors.  

“Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”
Dreamworks Pictures
Directed by Adam McKay
Written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay
Produced by Judd Apatow
Starring Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Fred Willard and Vince Vaughn
Rated PG-13

(out of four)

Every so often, an anchorman comes along who’s handsome, arrogant and completely clueless. Armed with a ridiculous mustache and poofy hair, Will Ferrell’s carefully controlled wacky performance as Ron Burgundy lovingly satirizes the era when men were still on top of the work force, but had the sexual revolution helping them get laid. Until, that is, the women entered the workforce and threw their world out of control.

In “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” Ferrell has joined forces with first-time director Adam McKay, with whom Ferrell wrote the screenplay, to send up the local newscasters of the 1970s. With the high of local celebritydom, Ron is comfortable in his number-one spot, telling San Diego to “stay classy” and receiving adoration from everyone on the street for his hard-hitting coverage of panda births.

Sex comes so easily that his pickup process begins with an observation of the quality of a woman’s behind and ends with a brief description of what he’d like to do to said behind. He and his coworkers have been going to the same party for 12 years, he observes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Little does he know that his world is about to change.

  Enjoying the frivolous parties that came with TV news in the 1970s, Burgundy executes a bitchin' cannonball before hitting on some women.

Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) is an ambitious newswoman who has met with immaturity and resentment from her male coworkers everywhere she goes. Her presence and heightened competence represent chaos to her male coworkers, and she complains to the news manager, played by the great Fred Willard, when he assigns her stories like a cat fashion show. The joke underscoring all this dissatisfaction is that the biggest story of the summer is a pregnant panda bear—it’s not that the woman can’t get the serious stories, it’s that the station isn’t doing them.

Burgundy’s news team and cool-looking hangout crew consists of men increasingly dumber than he is, with Steve Carell’s Brick Tamland covering the dumbest end of the spectrum, with weather reports in which he refers to the Midwest as the Middle East. Carell is already a pro at the news game from his time at “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” but takes on a new persona as the guy who says things that simultaneously demand and defy some sort of response. Paul Rudd plays Brian Fantana, a shaggy-haired ladies’ man with another ridiculous mustache. He’s the kind of guy who not only nicknames his penis, but both his testicles. David Keochner fills out the group as Champ Kind, a colorful sportscaster with an obnoxious catch phrase. While the jokes stemming from the news team are hit and miss, with many obvious and/or poorly thought out gags, the group dynamic is an inspired commentary state of the news organization.

They’re more like a group of school boys than professionals. Reflecting the immaturity of the workforce, they ask rudimentary life questions and get in insult matches with rival anchor Wes Mantooth, played by Vince Vaughn, and his silent news crew. The trump card in the verbal wars is the ratings, which Mandrake desperately claims don’t come from a large enough sample audience. This conflict culminates in a boldly ridiculous scene in which the news-team rivalry yields a similar result to the gang warfare seen in “The Gangs of New York.”

In addition to Vaughn, several other talented young comic actors make cameos in the film, just as Ferrell did in the recent “Starsky and Hutch.” It’s great to see these young actors working together, as you get the sense that one day they could collaborate on a classic comedy.

While “Anchorman” doesn’t reach classic status, it does combine a fully committed Ferrell performance with a nice document of a time when the workforce was changing, offering a perfect context to shoot off some sex-related jokes. The try-anything comedy often hits its mark, including some lovely bullshit on the (German) origins of San Diego and a scene that demonstrates how long you shouldn’t linger with a public erection. Just because he says to “stay classy” doesn’t mean that the film will.

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