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Wednesday, 1 May 2019

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

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Cast: Will Ferrell, Cristina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Fred Willard, Vince Vaughn
Genre: Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $90 million

Plot: Ron Burgundy is San Diego's top-rated newsman in the male-dominated broadcasting of the 1970s, but that's all about to change for Ron & his cronies when an ambitious woman is hired as a news anchor 

'Patchy Comedy, But Still Held Together By Ferrell'

When it comes to comedy movie stars, it seems as though each decade, there has been one performer who has dominated the Hollywood movie scene with a string of frequent hits: the 1980s belonged to Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places, Coming To America, 48 Hrs and in the 1990s arguably, and for me anyway, it was Robin Williams who struck gold with a string of comedies Mrs Doubtfire, The Birdcage, a comedic turn as the Genie in Aladdin, alongside his Oscar-winning dramatic turn in Good Will Hunting. & the 2000s saw the breakthrough of Saturday Night Live's Will Ferrell: the Irvine-born comic and actor came on the scene via Old School, Elf, Blades of Steel. But it was the success of The Legend of Ron Burgundy that truly put Ferrell on the comedy movie map, and for a while, he was huge and on a good run of form;  alas, his career was surging after this effort. 

Some of the misogyny in this film was a little disappointing to witness, which unfortunately became a norm from the early 2000s onwards in many comedies, whilst the comedy by Will Ferrell and courtesy of Judd Apatow is a lot less conventional and in the vein of the tomfoolery and broad farce of that of Robin Williams and Jim Carrey, but it is also witty in places from an entertainment point of view. In essence, it is a smarter and wittier version of the Farrelly Brothers humour and is far less malicious and mean-spirited in contrast. 

As a broad spoof on the 1970s and television news, it mocks these subjects rather well, without dumbing down too much. The characters are affectionate parodies of newscasters, with Ron who, despite his perverse attractions, is kind of charming too. Even if his character is a bit of misogynist. Will Ferrell is Will Ferrell who is less loud, but still, he is just as amusing in his own way, relying on the low brow antics and whilst this is his movie, his performance doesn't overshadow the remaining cast members. Ferrell, who also acts as a co-writer of Anchorman, plays Ron: a successful news anchorman who has a thing for Veronica: a female reporter who was hired by the station manager to increase and boost diversity, - but also, she is the same person targeted by Ron's colleagues to stop her from reigning in on their all-boys club parade. Tensions arise and it isn't long until the feuds and the in-fighting affect pretty much everyone involved. It is up to Ron to fix things and put them right. 

The support in Cristina Applegate, Steve Carell and Ant-Man's Paul Rudd hold their own opposite Ferrell. There are also cameos from Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller, Jack Black, of whom is in one scene where he dropkicks a fake dog towards the end (!), and an uncredited Tim Robbins, who was in his first big notable movie, since, well 1994's The Shawshank Redemption. 

Despite her attractive looks, Veronica is no ditzy blonde, nor pushover who gives the guys a run for her money and Applegate infuses the character confidence and a strong female presence, as well as giving the film another angle in which to work with. Some of the humour that works well occurs when Veronica is having to contend with Ron and his buddies incessant sexist behaviour and she tries to put them in their place. 

Comedy-wise, it is very sly, scattering and patchy, and not laugh-out-loud funny; however, when it and the gags hit the target, they land more than they miss, which is a good sign. As mentioned, The Legend of Ron Burgandy lampoons the world of broadcast television news and to an extent the 1970s era, effectively. As the film went on, I realised this is mainly comprised of mini SNL sketch pieces that are stretched out and follow one after the after. This made the viewing experience a tad cumbersome.

Personally, it's not bad and it is thanks to star man Ferrell, who makes Anchorman work but he needed to bring out more of the funny, which this film could have done more with. It is a comedy where it could have been a whole lot better, although some people may find his rambling as Ron tiresome, this has some mildly amusing one-liners and one or two light-hearted scenes. If you are not a fan of comedy films in general, then most likely, you will not be into this movie, nor enjoy it as much, as the humour is not reliant on pumping out jokes, gags and slapstick every 10 to 15 mins. Which, for this film, it would have helped if it had far more consistent and better slapstick and comedy. The improv is okay, but again, it needed that for me to laugh out a lot more, which it didn't do; plus Judd Apatow's films don't do it for me. 

By today's standards in the post-2010s, Anchorman just doesn't have that commercial mainstream accessibility, I tried to see its appeal from that train of thought, but the humour, which was and is a key component in many of these comedies that I watch, was lacking. This is just me, but having grown up with Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams, Leslie Nielsen and Jim Carrey in the 1980s and 1990s back in the day, I'm so used to their own brands of comedy that are also accessible to general audiences; nevertheless, Anchorman most definitely stands as a certifiable cult comedy and the Judd Apatow style has its share of fans and admirers.

Final Verdict

When I tune into a Will Ferrell film, I expect considerable laughs, as well as partially stupid and silly humour, - and this wasn't as hilarious as I anticipated. Anchorman's own strength is finding satire in the exploration of news media, yet its weakness is that the comedy aspect just wasn't there in abundance, pretty much most of the time. As comedies go that is so gag-based, ultimately it depends on whether it works for you and you find it amusing enough. Comedy is a subjective experience; with film, it's not so much about whether one is in on the joke, but that it makes you laugh a lot. 

Unfortunately, Anchorman's big laughs just didn't materialise and absurdist humour doesn't equate to hilarity. Dumb can be funny, being dumb can lead to all manner of fun situations, but it felt like here as if it was being dumb and silly, without the funniness to back it up.  

Still, when Will Ferrell is onscreen, Anchorman becomes a tad amusing, as opposed to funny and he carries the movie with aplomb and considerable ease.  


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