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2004 Roundup
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"Anchorman:  The Legend of Ron Burgundy"

Directed by Adam McKay.
Written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.
Starring Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd and Fred Willard.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  7/11/04

Folks--

"Anchorman:  The Legend of Ron Burgundy" had, by far, the funniest trailer of 2004, so that automatically made me nervous going into it.  Could Will Ferrell carry this thing for a full 90 minutes?  Are the shots in the trailer the best parts of the movie?  And, will PG-13 bring down the humor potential of the overall product?

Here's what I do know--once again, Will Ferrell confirms that he might be better than any other SNL product since the show's heyday of the early 1980s.  He even surpasses people like Phil Hartman and Chris Farley with his work in "Anchorman"; there are times where Ferrell is acting out the stupidest thing imagined and you are laughing your ass off.  This time around he plays Ron Burgundy, five-time news Emmy winner for broadcasting at Channel 4 in a San Diego of the 1970s, as well as a constant womanizer and proficient scotch drinker.  ("Scotch, scotch, scotch...I love scotch...down, down, down, down in my belly!")  Burgundy is gold in San Diego, but even the biggest gun in town wants to move up in the world, and just as his chance is approaching to work for the national affiliate, along comes Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), an ace reporter from the east coast that begins work at the station with the same goals as Burgundy.  Even though she is not initially attracted to Burgundy, a few drinks and a jazz flute performance make her change her mind, and their relationship drives the couple to even greater heights...mixed in with the occasional low.

Co-written by Ferrell, the script for "Anchorman" has many funny moments, but many of those scenes are driven by what seems to be improvisation by Ferrell and his line delivery.  Just watching Ferrell and his team of newsmen turn their heads in unison towards the camera while rehearsing promos for the broadcast will make you laugh uncontrollably; a 15-seconds-too-long scene where Burgundy breaks down in a phone booth over the loss of a loved one still works, because his incessant crying is so over-the-top that Ferrell just beats you over the head with the gag until you, too, are laughing your head off.  As my friend Ross "Born at the Concession Stand" Stephenson said afterwards, it was hard to see anyone else making Ron Burgundy work besides Ferrell because of the amount of physical humor; right now, there's no one working that does that side of things better than he does.  Even shots where Burgundy makes fun of others on set by just spouting off lines like "You're a dirty rotten whore...and, you know it" work because of the tone with which Ferrell speaks his dialogue.

The supporting cast around Ferrell--and, the half-dozen big cameos later in the film--does good-enough work, but because of the way the script is written, the actors that were cast look like they are going through their motions sometimes to just give us more Ferrell.  In that respect, "Anchorman" does feel more vain than some of Ferrell's other films, but that of course is the idea since he's been a supporting player for so long in everyone else's flicks.  It's all about Burgundy, so that means we also have some scenes that fall flat, like during Burgundy's initial attempts to win over Veronica, or when Burgundy is placing prank calls in the office; they aren't funny, and these scenes could have been replaced or reduced to give us more, say, Vince Vaughn, as a rival evening anchor, or maybe another gag with a collage of past news events at the station featuring the other guys on the news team.

Then again...it's those three guys on the news team, Brick (Steve Carell), Champ (David Koechner) and Brian (Paul Rudd), that are maybe the worst part about "Anchorman", because save for Brian--a ladies man that does have a few good lines sprinkled through the film--the other two guys are one-trick ponies that really don't add much to the picture.  Why weren't funnier people cast in these roles?  Why are these three roles so poorly written?  The running gag of Brick--he's retarded, according to himself--that he's the dumbest guy in the room gets old VERY quickly, and he gives us a few nervous laughs mostly because there's not much else going on sometimes.  Even the normally punchline-happy Fred Willard adds nothing in his role as the program's producer; I kept waiting for a funny moment to be thrown in, but it never comes, and this is surprising given Willard's penchant for providing a boost to other comedies in which he has appeared.

The soundtrack for "Anchorman" is solid, and director Adam McKay throws in a couple of random segments to keep things moving, like an animated bit in the film, a music number featuring a local jazz group and one of the funniest fight scenes in years, as the rival news crews engage in gang warfare late in the movie.  Having seen the trailer a bunch of times, I was disappointed that so many of the sight gags in the trailer didn't make it into the movie, like that scene where Burgundy has a guitar on his back while trying to hitch a ride, or when he grabs a fistful of water only to watch it squirt back out of his hand.  I hate it when they use deleted scenes in the trailer!  The outtakes are a bit disappointing as well, although for some reason unbeknownst to me, there is a shot from "Smokey and the Bandit" thrown in that will make most people turn to their buddy and say "WTF?"

All of this is to say that "Anchorman" really straddled the line for me between Matinee and $9.50 Show...but, Ferrell has some truly great moments in the film that drive it up a notch.  The very ordinary script does have some good lines, but it relies so heavily on Ferrell's performance that it's a wonder it doesn't crash mid-film after giving us its premise of Burgundy as silly, nonsensical womanizer.  It's a credit to him that the film keeps you entertained all the way to its poor conclusion; if they make a sequel, hopefully they'll put a better package around its only crown jewel. 

Rating:  $9.50 Show

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09