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Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy  (2004)

 

Starring: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd
Director: Adam McKay

Rating: PG-13

Distributor: DreamWorks SKG

Release Date: 07.09.04

Review Posted: 07.09.04

Spoilers: None

 

By Sara M. Fetters

 

"Anchorman" Deserving of Cancellation

 

Good evening, America. I’m Sara Michelle Fetters – here’s the review.

 

The new Will Farrell comedy “Anchorman” arrives in theaters today, and let me be the first to say, ‘Holy cow – what a pile of gelatinous over-saturated crap!’

 

Excuse me for not being subtle, but this is one critic who just does not understand the obscene popularity of this clownish baboon. I must admit, in small, miniscule doses I have found the hyperactive Farrell to be funny, and there are times in “Anchorman” where I felt that way once again. Playing a seventies era San Diego newsman, the former “Saturday Night Live” does generate some laughs as the self-absorbed and perfectly coifed Ron Burgundy. They are, however, few and far between, this flick nothing more than a cute idea stretched so far past its breaking point the rubber band snaps a good ten minutes into the picture.

 

Looking for a story? You won’t find one here. At its most basic, “Anchorman” wants to poke fun at those bygone moments when feminism made its impact felt in TV newsrooms across the country. This was a time when women pushed their way past the weather prompter and into the anchor chair, and Burgundy and his news team are more than a little reluctant to see a female reporter do just that.

 

Said reporter is one Veronica Corningstone, played with an infectious earnestness by one-time “Married with Children” star Christina Applegate. She’s so good in the role her performance almost saves the entire picture. While everyone else is flamboyantly overplaying their hands, Applegate tones it down and dials it in. She has confidence in both the material and in her own abilities and, as such, she’s wonderful. In fact, Applegate is the only consistently funny – or endearing – presence in “Anchorman,” frequently stealing scenes right out from beneath her much more lauded costar.

 

Even better is “Best in Show” and “A Mighty Wind” funnyman Fred Willard, his phone conversations with flustered school administrators and authorities the best of their kind since Bob Newhart picked up a receiver. Willard does more with a sideways glance then the rest of the cast does with pratfalls, double entendres and verbally abusive sight gags galore. If this movie was about him, about an aging newsman and station manager trying to bend with ever-changing times, “Anchorman” just might have been a comedy classic.

 

But it isn’t, and instead all we get is a tiredly over-the-top, overly improvised farce that relies more on the popularity of its star than it does on little things like character, story or continuity. Director Adam McKay lets Farrell and his cadre of best friends; Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson and Ben Stiller to name three; run roughshod over him. No more is this more apparent than during an out of nowhere street fight between rival television news teams, including PBS and Telemundo, where everyone suddenly makes like they’re trying out for the movie “Troy.”

 

The whole thing is a series of poorly planned “SNL” skits trapped in the middle of a good idea taken in the completely wrong direction. What’s most amusing about all of this is that Jack Nicholson played this same character over a decade ago in James L. Brooks’ “Broadcast News,” making more of a comedic impact in ten minutes than Farrell does in just over ninety of them. But than, that was a satire of the nightly news business that had the gal to have a brain, something Farrell knows his audience doesn’t want.

 

Unfortunately, time and time again he’s being proven right. Theatergoers flocked to see Farrell in “Elf” and I can’t help but think they’ll do the same here. Granted, this time around he won’t attract quite the same broad audience; with so much adult humor and comedic violence this is assuredly not a picture for the little ones; but the box office take will undoubtedly be huge all the same.

 

For this critic, that fact alone is enough to make me want to sign off.

 

I’m Sara Michelle Fetters – stay intelligent America, and leave “Anchorman” in the cancellation bin where it belongs.

 

Film Rating: ê1/2  (out of 4)

 

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