You go into a movie like Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy expecting to laugh at silly jokes and giggle at yourself for finding them funny in the first place. But what you might not expect is to go in and witness a bunch of crazy people doing crazy things and saying inane jumbles of words that don’t amount to much after you’ve left the cinema.
Anchorman is a triumph of a movie because it stands above its plot and reels in the laughs from a tireless string of gags. Some gags don’t work — there’s something about a pet dog being able to converse with a Kodiak bear that just doesn’t quite fit for me — while others work like a charm. You don’t need to be a genius to know that any character who has an IQ lower than that of a Harry and Lloyd after shock therapy will be as amusing as Steve Carell playing the weatherman, Brick Tamland. The laughs come hard and they come fast, but they don’t come regularly enough.
I suspect that’s because the script, penned by long time collaborators Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay, doesn’t make much sense. It’s thinly drafted, and it gets its kicks mainly from a lack of intelligence. Here’s the plot, as succinctly as I can summarise it: Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) is a famed San Diego news anchor. He’s full of himself, and he knows that deep down inside he is a man child. One fine day, he meets Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), who wants to be the new anchor. The two fight it out and eventually come to terms.
Everything else that develops is either obligatory or incidental.
Here are the obligatory bits. Ron must have a news team. And so he does. It is made up of Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Champ Kind (David Koechner), and Brick Tamland. Brian’s the on-field reporter, and his impressive collection of manly colognes includes a scent known only as Sex Panther (it contains bits of real panther, and Ron shrewdly points out that it smells an awful lot like pure gasoline). Champ’s the sports guy. He’s a bit of a question mark. He loves the ladies, but there’s a moment in Anchorman that indicates he might be playing for both teams. And of course there’s Brick, whose name could not have been more apt.
Ron and Veronica must have an up-and-down relationship. That much is also obligatory. They will frolic, then argue, then make up, then destroy each other, then make up again. More or less in that order.
Satire, too, is a requirement in a movie like this. McKay and Ferrell hit their mark often enough with jokes that hinge very strongly on the audience’s existing knowledge of news stations and yellow journalism, particularly during the 1970s. Naturally, everything is hyped up to the extreme, but the foundations on which the movie’s events take place are firmly rooted in fact. You can see this when Ron and his team pose for promos and march through large banners.
And then there are the incidental bits, which are, quite plain and simply, everything that I have not mentioned. Ron’s dog, Baxter. Ron and his team leaping into the air at the thought of buying new suits. The gratuitous free-for-all between rival news teams that takes place in a world of its own. The den of bears. The birth of a panda. And so on. Anchorman comes alive during these moments, which seem to exist in a time and place quite far removed from the constraints of human emotion and development. Some jokes make so little sense that we have to think twice before our brain allows us to laugh.
I cannot say I know all there is to know about journalism. I missed my opportunity to study it in university. What I do know of it doesn’t sound like something I’d want to pursue as a career. But what do I know? I just sit here, watch movies, and write about them. Somewhere out there there is a Ron Burgundy of the film industry, just waiting to have his chance in the spotlight. To have his story told. Time and time again. Until his ears bleed and his ego is pampered.
Best Moment | There are a number of really good bits. Watch the movie and take your pick.
Worst Moment | There are a number of unfunny bits. Watch the movie and take your pick.