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ANCHORMAN (PG-13) (2004)


Official Site

Director: Adam McKay

Producer: Judd Apatow

Written by: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay

Cast: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steven Carell, Fred Willard


While domestic intellectuals and foreign observers will forever accuse Americans of choosing to be ignorant about current events and “real news” (did somebody say Fantasia Barrino!?), nobody holds a candle to the U.S. of A. when it comes to fake journalism. From Weekend Update on “SNL” to “The Daily Show” to The Onion, we just can’t get enough. It seems only logical, then, to make a mockumentary about the pseudo-celebrity of regional newscasters. There’s something so classic about seeing your local weatherman in real life, zipping past you with that certain off-air smugness, with meteorology-related vanity plates on his Saab convertible. Tickled as we are by the news itself, we are also a people easily amused by the narcissism and false modesty of “TV personalities” who really aren’t that famous.

Anchorman recognizes this, and it definitely has some great comedic ideas. Ron Burgundy (Farrell) is the lead anchor at Channel 4 News. Ron and his “news team” carouse around 1970s San Diego, going to parties and occasionally running into rival gangs from other networks and getting into street rumbles. And for all that machismo, the only late-breaking news we see on Channel 4 are animal stories—a feline fashion show, a wacky water-skiing squirrel, and a recurring segment called “PANDA WATCH!”

This is all is so clever, so promising, but after the premise is laid out, the movie has little else to offer.

I have a few pieces of beef with Anchorman. First, it fails to deviate much from the post-SNL-star big-screen formula: A kooky, self-absorbed, semi-loser with a compensatory killer sense of humor sets his sights on an ambitious, beautiful woman whose character is completely un-funny. First the woman evades him, then he wins her over. Then they have a falling out. Then some unexpected crisis gives the hero the chance to prove how super he is to this special lady, and in the end he gets the girl and is reunited with all his rascally sidekicks. Hooray! That’s basically Anchorman. And Austin Powers. And Clean Slate. And Billy Madison. And Happy Gilmore. And Tommy Boy. The list goes on. (Wayne’s World and So I Married An Axe Murderer are rare cases in which the quality of the writing makes up for the lameness of the plot, but Anchorman is not one of these cases.)

Furthermore, although Christina Applegate is supposed to be an ironic choice to play Women’s Libber Victoria Corningstone, she seems to have completely lost her flair. Whatever happened to that bimbo who believably became an enterprising businesswoman overnight in Don’t Tell Mom, The Babysitter’s Dead? Now that was a good one, Christina.

For the remainder of this review, I could make a big list of all the cameos in the film and fill up some major screen space. But that would be tacky, because the dozens of visits from Your Favorite Stars are among the only surprises Anchorman does have. It’s not really a consistently funny movie and the poverty of the writing is distracting, even after you lower your standards because you know you’re going to see a dumbed-down physical comedy.

Hey, Anchorman isn’t at all horrible. Farrell busts out several impressive one-liners, and honestly, there was one part when I laughed myself to tears. (Two words: jazz flute.) Go see it at the discount theater or rent it when it comes out on DVD—just be sure to spend the extra few bucks you saved on a bowl or a six pack. You’re gonna need it.

—Leah Churner

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

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