> Volume 6 > Number 27


Adam McKay

Will Ferrell
Christina Applegate
Paul Rudd
Steve Carell
David Koechner
Fred Willard

Release: 9 Jul. 04

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy


In a time before cable, Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) was the toast of San Diego. Along with his faithful news team, he brought enough human interests stories to the homes of his faithful viewers to warm the heart of Howard Beale. Sure, viewing him on the news brought the absolute surety that Burgundy was an idiot, but it was hypnotic in his stupidity like watching reality programming. Though the film is set in the 1970s, there’s still some reality to this: in Knoxville, Tennessee, the top rated news show, Live at Five, has two airheads who mysteriously mesmerize anyone unlucky enough to accidentally fall upon the show.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is amazingly able to channel the spellbinding stupidity of shows like Live at Five (I’m certain there are incarnations around the country). Unfortunately, that’s when the film is at its best, making a mockery of local news human interest stories and the forced camaraderie that the “team” is supposed to have. Even its proto-misogynist debate over having a female anchor works splendidly with the rest of the picture. The main problem, then, is that the jokes that fill the rest of the film are mostly non-sequiturs, the type that Will Ferrell has always done well with, but rarely makes much of a mark playing. He’s on top of his game with doing parody, like his best caricatures on Saturday Night Live, when he’s just running at the mouth with jokes based more on their inexplicable existence than their actual hilarity, his type of humor seems forced.

This is made clear through much of Anchorman, as he’s grouped with actors who are much better at playing broad characterizations. Steve Carrell is especially delightful as the dumbest in the news team, his puzzlement over the most childish of details coming across in the actor’s anything’s game work ethic. The film’s elaborate set pieces, which are becoming a convention in these lowbrow comedies, are hit-and-miss: an animated sequence falls as flat as a pan flute performance, but a rumble between competing news shows, including the NPR crew, is absurdly genius.

Ferrell has been hard at work as of late, trying to convince people of the hilarity to be found if people would just watch Anchorman. Playing Ron Burgundy for every news show -- many not noticing that his shtick is at their expense -- he’s seemingly begun caricaturing his own caricature. The finest incarnation of Ron Burgundy came with his pleasure over the New York Post Kerry-Gephardt cover, pronouncing that this is real journalism. At his best, he’s a reminder that Ron Burgundy might not be that far from the truth

©2004, David Perry,, 2 July 2004