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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Anchorman

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Judy Thorburn

"Anchorman" - Sinks To Mere Stupidity

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“ANCHORMAN” – SINKS TO MERE STUPIDITY

Avid fans of TV’s Saturday Night Live, especially those who can remember the early years with the original cast members, should recall the humorous Weekend News segment, when Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtain sparred with each other as competitive co-anchor reporters.  It was a very funny battle of the sexes, as they would target each other with sexist insults in between reporting the so-called news.  This was back in the 70’s, and their sketch relationship mirrored the changing times where women were now becoming a force in the news media, a position men were used to controlling.

Will Ferrell, a recent alumna of Saturday Night Live, must have gotten his idea from that sketch and figured he could expound on that premise to write and star in a full length feature film. A lot would depend on how much audiences like Ferrell as a comedic lead, and the acceptance of continuous dumb, if not downright stupid humor, because that’s exactly what you get.

“If Ron Burgundy says it, it’s true!” That’s the catch phrase promoting the top news personality at the fictitious Channel 4 TV station in San Diego, where Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is so popular that everyone from housewives to bikers and even babies, stops to listen when he is on the air.

Set in the 1970’s, the pompous and vain Burgundy leads the number one team of wacky, chauvinistic newscasters that include street reporter, Brian Fontana (Paul Rudd), sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner) and mentally challenged (as in moronic) weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell).  Together they form a group of good old boys who see their men’s club crumbling when station manager, Ed Harkin (Fred Williard), realizing that times are-a-changing, decides to add some diversity to his team. Fitting the bill is beautiful, ambitious reporter, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), who has some serious career goals of her own – to be the first woman anchorperson. Naturally, it’s love at first sight for Burgundy.  But, their romance hits a snag when Veronica gets a chance to take his place on the air after he is involved in a mishap on the road with a very vengeful biker played by Jack Black.  You can only imagine Burgundy’s reaction to Veronica’s lucky break.  Anchorman uses this plot to take a satirical stab at male reporters who didn’t take too kindly to the idea of women breaking the glass ceiling.  The result is an uneven mix at best.

Ferrell is a likeable enough comedian to attract an audience to his own brand of oddball humor that played so well on sketch TV.  He will go to any length to get a laugh, whether it’s zany physical stunts or mouthing off some idiotic phrases. In Anchorman, he surrounds himself with like-minded actors willing to push the envelope as long as they can create a giggle.  And, that’s the problem with so many dumb comedies these days. Anything goes. The slim plot gets reduced to what looks more like a series of sketches that range from silly to way over the top ridiculous.  For example, there is an absurd showdown against rival news teams with one headed by “second in the ratings” Vince Vaughn and others lead by Luke Wilson, Tim Robbins and yes, Ben Stiller (isn’t he in every comedy) who is the leader of a Spanish language team.

Granted, I did find myself laughing at some bits.  My favorite involves Burgundy’s pet dog, Baxtor who is the highlight whenever he is in a scene.  This mutt is given the ability to talk in language that his owner or any other four-legged animal understands, and is literally the savior of the story.  At least his scenes were funny, and clever without being crude. But, enough said about this pup.

Undeniably, there will be audiences that will laugh at anything. Ferrell and his supporting cast are a talented bunch of comedic actors relegated to mere caricatures in this film, but ones they seem to have so much fun portraying.  And, I commend Christina Applegate for doing a worthy job playing it straight while everyone around her is acting like fools.

I know it is a comedy, a dumb one at that.  But, I don’t think it is a stretch to think that Will Ferrell is capable of coming up with a smarter script, material or role for himself in his future. This, and his last effort, Elf was a disappointment for me.  He’s being prepped as the next big comedy star.  I need to see if he deserves the recognition.   I suppose if there is a Will, there is a way!