2004-07-15 / Arts & Entertainment

"Anchorman" Is ‘Observant’ TV News Parody

By Christy Lemire
AP Entertainment Writer
"Anchorman" Is ‘Observant’ TV News Parody By Christy Lemire AP Entertainment Writer

By Christy Lemire AP Entertainment Writer

Veronica Corningstone (CHRISTINA APPLEGATE, seated center) is the newest addition to San Diego’s Channel 4 news team, much to the consternation of lead anchor, Ron Burgundy (WILL FERRELL, far right) and his fellow anchormen, (left to right) Brian Fantana (PAUL RUDD) Champ Kind (DAVID KOECHNER) and Brick Tamland (STEVE CARELL).                                                                         ©2004 Dreamworks PicturesVeronica Corningstone (CHRISTINA APPLEGATE, seated center) is the newest addition to San Diego’s Channel 4 news team, much to the consternation of lead anchor, Ron Burgundy (WILL FERRELL, far right) and his fellow anchormen, (left to right) Brian Fantana (PAUL RUDD) Champ Kind (DAVID KOECHNER) and Brick Tamland (STEVE CARELL). ©2004 Dreamworks Pictures

What’s in your salad bar could kill you...but first, this film review.

That’s not so far off from the worst television news writing, just like the star of "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" isn’t so different from some of the dweebiest, most self-serious guys who come into your living rooms every night at 5, 6 and 11.

Observant comedy with a sharp (yet affectionate) eye for detail is just part of what makes this movie work. The top story is Will Ferrell, flinging his entire body with typical reckless abandon into the role of Ron Burgundy, while at the same time infusing the character with a subtle sense of loneliness.

Yes, this parody of TV news sometimes feels like an extended "Saturday Night Live’’ skit. Ferrell, an alum of the show, wrote the script with former "SNL’’ head writer Adam McKay, who also makes his debut directing a feature film. And really, Chevy Chase was Ron Burgundy long before Ron Bur-gundy was, as the anchor of "Weekend Update.’’

As you’d expect from a movie like this, the jokes can be hit and miss _ though there are far more hits, and even the misses, while brash and often stupid, aren’t egregious. But there’s just a goofy, fearless energy about "Anchor-man’’ that sucks you in and carries you along, similar to Ferrell’s last two come-dies, "Old School’’ and "Elf.’’

The idea of Ron and his all-male news team breaking into a harmonious rendition of "Afternoon Delight’’ in the middle of a conversation may not sound that funny. The fact that Ferrell and his solid supporting cast just flat-out go for it makes the moment funny.

Ron, with his poofy hair and poofier mustache and wardrobe that matches his last name, is the main anchor at the top-rated station in San Diego. He thinks he’s terribly charismatic – his signature signoff is "Stay classy, San Diego" – and important.

"I’m kind of a big deal,’’ he tells a beautiful blonde at a party, an omni-present glass of Scotch in hand. "People know me."

After she blows him off, he later finds out that the beautiful blonde is Veronica Corningstone (Christina Ap-plegate), a reporter hired by the news director (Fred Willard, fabulously clue-less as always) in an attempt at diversity.

Since "Anchorman" takes place long before awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace, all the chauvinist pigs hit on Veronica obnoxiously (and their names are almost as wonderfully kitschy as Dirk Diggler and Chest Rockwell from "Boogie Nights’’). There’s overzealous sports guy Champ Kind (David Koechner), roving report-er Brain Fantana (Paul Rudd) and nerdy weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell, who’s already familiar with this sort of material as a correspondent on "The Daily Show’’).

Veronica – with her immobile coif and vast array of pastel suits – brags that she’s been chasing big stories and "practicing my non-regional diction’’ in preparation for her dream gig as a network anchor. But even though she seems determined to assert herself as an equal, she finds that she’s falling for Ron. (An animated sequence, in which she and Ron frolic on horseback amid rainbows, is among the sight gags that fall flat and drag on.)

When Ron is late for work because of a hideous confrontation involving his beloved terrier, Baxter, and an angry biker (Jack Black, providing just one of the movie’s many hysterical cameos), Veronica anchors the news in his place. Despite her co-workers’ infantile at-tempts at derailing her, she’s a huge hit.

From here, things spiral out of control a bit. A rumble between Ron’s news team and his competitors from other stations is funny. When Ron is fired and sits around at a dive bar all day, making flatulence noises with his mouth, it’s not funny. But more often than not, you’ll find yourself giggling, against your better judgment.

Now for our dangerous salad bar story: You could probably poke your eye out with the tongs if you’re not careful. Oh, and there might be E. coli in the tuna salad. And now on to sports.

"Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" is rated PG-13 for sexual humor, language and comic violence. Running time: 91 minutes.

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