Saturday, January 23, 2016

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) (Movie Review)

       Comedy is my absolute favorite category of film, why, because nothing brings me more joy then well timed laughter. Unfortunately the turn of the century as seen a serious decline in quality comedy, most of them are forgettable, uninspired and just plain laugh free. Think back to the late 70’s and 80’s. That was the great golden age of comedy, and when films like “Animal House”, “Airplane!”, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and “Caddyshack” were all the craze. Comedy’s now day’s just don’t stand out like that anymore, and I can think of maybe 5 from the 2000’s area that were actually great. One of my personal favorite comedies from this age is the 2004 film “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”. Like “Airplane!” before it, this is one of those comedies that has the makings of a classic, from its quotable lines, to its memorable scenes, and of course it’s wildly inspiring sense of silly hummer.

      The film takes place in San Diego during the 1970’s, and Ron Burgundy is the biggest newsman that everybody watched. At his side are three bumbling co-anchors that have their own distinct flair and persona that help boost the ratings of their news show. Now at this point in time, women didn’t get much publicity in the news world, and only covered smaller stories. Enter a bright young news lady named Veronica who aims to go above and beyond as a female news reporter. As her carrier progresses, the once adored Ron Burgundy finds himself facing some heated competition. Before too long, the clash of these two TV people becomes a personal war for the network broadcasting spotlight. Hijinks ensue, a romance is born, betrayal is committed, and we the audience are laughing all the way.

    Let’s first talk about the cast, particularly Will Ferrell in the lead role of Ron Burgundy. To be honest, Will Ferrell is one of those on and off again comedians who turn out just as much crappie work as they do comedic gold. His first break out movie in 2003 “Elf” was especially funny, and a promising start for his carrier. Then came “Old School” that same year, and while I really wasn’t a fan of that film, it proved that Will Ferrell was a strong new force in the world of comedy. In the case of Anchorman, his buffoonish portrayal of a clueless newsman is admittedly one of the movies biggest strengths. This is one of the rare times in which I felt that Will Ferrell actually created a funny character, as opposed to just about all his other films in which I feel Will Ferrell is just acting like himself. He’s definitely silly as Ron Burgundy, but with just enough restraint to keep him from being off the rail stupid. Christina Applegate is fine in the role of Ron’s female rival Veronica, but the character just never came off quiet as funny or attractive as the film tries to imply.

    The supporting cast is mostly perfect and help to give some variety to the jokes. David Koechner plays the upbeat and extremely fun loving Champ Kind, a guy who lives his life like one big party. Paul Rudd (of recent “Ant-Man” fame) plays Brian Fantana, the chill, laid back guy of the group, and personally my least favorite character as he’s the one with the most insufferable puns. Let’s not forget Steve Carell as Brick, the lovable, absent minded dufus of the news team. This is one of my favorite characters that Steve Carell has ever played, and launches most of the films funniest lines. Some of the supporting cast like Fred Willard, Seth Rogen and Vince Vaughn all do credible jobs, but it’s the celebrity cameos from actors like Ben Stiller that really crack me up. My favorite cameo comes from a punked out, motorcycle riding Jack Black, who has a side splitting encounter with a discarded burrito ... I dare not say any more then that because it’s really funny.

      I’m not going to lie, even though I love this movie, it can be really inconsistent with just how funny the comedy is. Some of the gags are side splitting, while a noticeable hand full of jokes are dry and uninspired. The first half hour of the film is especially pretentious with stale sexual innuendos, and a slow pace. But the film sure has its highlights, and definitely picks itself up. It’s one of those comedies that takes place in a setting where the real world is like a live action cartoon, and just about anything can happen. A slapstick street fight breaks out between various news stations for no apparent reason, Ron Burgundy breaths fire through a Jazz flute in front of a live audience, and a dog can get kicked off a bridge, fall several stories and still get back up on its feet completely unscathed ... sure, it’s just that kind of cartoony word where silly, unpractical events are the norm. The News room itself is a very fun and lively location that just feels like a fun place to work in. It’s hard to pick out a favorite scene out of so many memorable moments, but the Jazz flute scene never fails to crack me up. There’s a scene when two lovers spend the night together, and instead of a typical grotesque sex scene, we’re treated to this hilarious animated dream sequence with the two of them transported to the colorful world of “Pleasure Town”.

      The first big belly laugh comes in the form of a cologne brand called “Sex Panther” – “17% of the times, it’s guaranteed to work ... every time.” Then there’s the song “Afternoon Delight” performed by the cast, and while it’s an admittedly juvenile song, it makes for a really catchy harmony. My friends and I have actually tried to pool off our own harmony version of this song but it was only half as good as in the film ... I’m just not that good of a singer. On that note, this really is one of those films that is a lot of fun to discuses, reference and joke about with a big group of friends. The previously mentioned gang war between all the news stations is one of the greatest slapstick action scenes to be featured in a comedy. Characters pull medieval weapons out of their pockets, people are riding horses, and there's just no limit to how over the top the fight can get. The climax provides another funny slap stick action scene involving a hungry group of bears out for anchor-meat.

      Now there was a sequel that came out in 2013 and reunited the cast, but surprise, surprise ... I’ve actually never bothered to see it. Even though I heard it was a half way decent spoof, I typically don’t trust comedy sequels. There was a magic to that first film that I feel could never be captured again, but who knows, maybe I’ll see it someday. As for the first Anchorman, well, it can be a little inconsistent with its hummer, but when it’s funny ... hot damn is it ever funny. To this day, it’s still one of my favorite comedy’s of the modern age, the silly antics are inspiring, and it’s one of Will Ferrell’s most memorable performances. This is the kind of film that's perfect to watch with a rowdy group of friends looking for a big laugh and a good time, so take that for what it’s worth.

                           I give “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” 4 stars our of 5.       

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