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"Anchorman" Review


Title: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy

Starring: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Kevin Corrigan, Chuck D

Written by: Adam McKay, Will Ferrell

Directed by: Adam McKay

Rating: PG-13 for sexual humor, language and comic violence.

Review by Stephen Silver

The new comedy "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" is essentially a two-hour succession of one-liners, interrupted occasionally by physical-comedy bits and star cameos that stop the plot dead in its tracks, and there's no real interest in character development or meaningful satire. But all that is forgiven, because the gags are so good that "Anchorman" is the first movie since "There's Something About Mary" that made me laugh so hard that I hurt physically.

The film, directed by Adam McKay and co-written by McKay and Will Ferrell, is like one of those "To Bill Brasky!" sketches that Ferrell used to appear in on "Saturday Night Live," which gave the actors an opportunity to shout funny one-liners without having to connect them with any sort of plot or idea. (In fact McKay, a former SNL writer, may have a hand in writing those sketches.) Just as the plots of action-adventure movies are often called a "clothesline" on which to hang the action, "Anchorman" is seemingly one long excuse to assemble a collection of disparate jokes that McKay and Ferrell probably came up with over the course of many years.

Ostensibly a satire of 1970s television news, "Anchorman" doesn't really have anything satirical to say about its subject or anything else, aside from anachronistic sexism and wardrobe/hairstyle humor that would have been stale in 1985 (somehow, the film resists the urge to throw in "woman driver" jokes). Indeed, it's hard for the film to satirize televised news when there's about two minutes of actual on-camera news footage in the whole film. But again, the rapid-fire one-liners work so well that they almost single-handedly save "Anchorman."

Ferrell stars as the titular 1970s news anchor, opposite three sidekicks, sometime SNL player David Koechner, former "Daily Show" correspondent Steve Carrell, and actual actor Paul Rudd. The three characters are so underwritten that they each have almost no characteristics of their own aside from being romantically inept and dumb, although Rudd has a great line about his nicknames for his genitals. The fifth major character is a female reporter (Christina Applegate), who upsets the quartet's "macho" balance, throwing the newsroom culture into turmoil.

Two years after leaving SNL, Ferrell has already established himself as a major talent, and while the character doesn't require much actual "acting," the manic energy may make this the quintessential Ferrell performance (though his overacting makes Ace Ventura-era Jim Carrey look restrained by comparison.) Applegate, whose movie career appeared to peter out around the time of "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead," shows surprising skill, and Rudd is the only of the co-anchors to really distinguish himself, doing much better in this sort of comedy than in his extended "Friends" guest stint.

In terms of the film's gag-to-plot ratio, it's up there with Tom Green's "Freddy Got Fingered." But like the much-maligned 'Freddy,' which I defend to this day, "Anchorman" will seemingly do anything for a laugh, whether that means broad, incongruous physical comedy or ostentatious cameos from a certain combination of actors that along with Ferrell has appeared in just about every Hollywood comedy of the last few years. The efforts don't deliver every time, but the percentage is much higher than that of, say, a "Scary Movie" installment.

The best gags of the movie? I'd say it's the bit involving Rudd's cologne and the newsroom's reaction to it, and one of the aforementioned cameos- the one by a guy playing a biker- and its immediate aftermath.

"Anchorman," while not quite sharp enough to qualify for the comedy-classic pantheon, is nevertheless likely to remain a college staple for decades to come, supplying more memorable quotes to dorm-room stoners than any comedy since "Dumb & Dumber."

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