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Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 12/28/04 13:13:21

"It's the balls."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

So bitter disappointment and the stench of a letdown must come around here some other day, for “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” is every bit as funny as I had hoped. Say what you will about it being overly silly or overly pointless. All that matters is that from the first frame to the very last post-credits cookie, I couldn’t stop laughing.

The biggest laughs, of course, went to Will Ferrell’s mustachioed title character, a buffoon blended from a good dozen of Ferrell’s various recurring “Saturday Night Live” characters, most notably Robert Goulet, Neil Diamond, the guy who always talks too loudly, and that swarthy bearded professor fellow who’s always talking about sex with Rachel Dratch. It’s a perfectly realized comic character, and I still find myself unable look at a picture of the guy without cracking up.

Ferrell’s surrounded himself with some of the sharpest comic talents around, and lucky for us he’s given them some of the best material. His San Diego news crew is a wicked parody of bad local news everywhere, with Paul Rudd as the womanizing, overly cologned field reporter Brian Fantana; David Koechner as dorkishly macho sports anchor Champ Kind; and Steve Carell - a man who may challenge Ferrell for the title of Funniest Person In America - as Brick Tamland, the weatherman who’s stuck in every negative cliché regarding weathermen. If there were a trophy for gleeful, innocent stupidity, Brick Tamland would have a mantelful.

Let me pause for a moment to reflect on the pure talent Ferrell and co-writer/ director Adam McKay have for inventing funny names. “Ron Burgundy?” “Brick Tamland?” “Brian Fantana?” Heeelarious. And let’s not overlook the genius of “Veronica Corningtone” or, better yet, “Wes Mantooth.” Sweet gravy, “Wes Mantooth.” Hee hee. “Wes Mantooth!” But I digress. Ferrell and McKay find the humor in faux serious names, refusing to make them overly cartoonish (“Pistachio Disguisey,” for example) and instead realizing that real names (even with the added kick of a “Brick” or a “Champ”) are hilarious enough. “Wes Mantooth!”

Anyway. The plot, I suppose. Veronica (Christina Applegate) is the latest edition to the Channel 4 News Team, sending shockwaves through the newsroom: “It’s anchorman, not anchorlady. It’s a scientific fact!” But Ron Burgundy cannot resist the feminine wiles of his new coworker, and the two fall hard for each other, thus beginning one of the weirdest love stories ever told.

Actually, it’s even funnier once the love affair falls apart and the bitter rivalry begins, but that would be giving away too many of the best jokes.

Yes, “Anchorman” is goofy and low-aiming and not genius cinema. But it’s genius comedy. It’s easy to see this as dumb stuff, but consider the comedy know-how it takes to, say, slip in a clip from "Smokey and the Bandit II" in the middle of the closing credits bloopers (one of the funniest, sharpest gags I’ve seen all year, people). Ferrell and McKay are two guys who know how to create laughs in a flash; their comedy is incredibly detailed but never reveals itself to be such. In that regard, “Anchorman” is a lot like “Airplane!” - both brilliantly handled comedies that appear on the surface to be just a parade of dopey gags. Don’t let the dumb front fool you.

All those comedy smarts boils down to one indisputable fact: “Anchorman” is the single funniest thing Will Ferrell has done yet. Or, to quote the opening narration, Ron Burgundy is the balls.

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