Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. One of the most quotable movies ever and one of my all-time favorite comedies in general, it's hard to believe it has been almost 10 years since the comedy's initial release. Rewatching it recently in preparation for its sequel (review coming), I had to go back and revisit it, see if it still holds up. Short answer? Yes.
It's the mid 1970s and no one in San Diego is a bigger star than Channel 4 anchorman Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell). An icon in the city and must-watch every time he's on the news, Ron is riding high, his news team, sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), field reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) ever at his side. The television ratings are high, the city loves them, and it seems no one can take them down. Well, that could change. Channel 4 has hired a new field reporter, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), who would like nothing more than to become the first female news anchor. Ron and the News Team are going to do their best to make sure she doesn't get to achieve her dream, but there's a catch. Ron really likes Veronica and Veronica really likes Ron. Uh-oh, I sense some late 1970s hijinks on the way.
I saw Anchorman in theaters upon its initial release and loved it. L-O-V-E-D it. From director Adam McKay, co-writing the script with good friend Ferrell, Anchorman is either loved or hated among viewers. You don't hear a lot of folks who came away just liking the movie, mildly enjoying it. It's pretty obvious why. The humor -- to say the least -- is the definition of random, pretty off the wall and while not filthy, low-brow certainly comes to mind. I tend to think there's a brilliance to the randomness here (and in the sequel), the twisted minds of Ferrell and McKay finding that perfect outlet to let out that craziness. A review listing the countless memorable scenes would be incredibly easy because there is one laugh out loud scene after another. It deserves its status as one of the best comedies ever, not to mention a status as one of the most quotable movies ever from Brick's "I love lamp" to Ron's explanation of the origin of the name San Diego and a whole lot of other lines in between.
The movie's epic success (in my eyes) begins and ends with Mr. Ferrell as legendary newsman Ron Burgundy. Thanks to Elf and Old School, Ferrell was a rising star in the comedy world making the jump from SNL to movies, but for me, this was the movie that put him on the A-list map officially and for good. Maybe you love the character, maybe you hate him, but Ferrell makes Ron Burgundy a truly memorable character. He's uber self-confident, a ladies man, a master player of jazz flute, a hard-drinker who favors scotch, epically proud of his perfectly coiffed hair, loves his little dog, Baxter, and knows more than anything else that he was born to READ THE NEWS! There's a certain idiotic charm to Burgundy, a man who is all sorts of confident, but he's really dumb too. That's the beauty of the character, the biggest doofus of all to lead a cast full of doofus characters. A great, truly funny part for Will Ferrell.
There really isn't a weakness in the entire cast. Applegate holds her own in the Boys Club, her Veronica wanting to make a legitimate name for herself, not just because people like her. The Channel 4 News Team is perfect, especially Rudd as the epically smooth ladies man and field reporter Brian Fantana. Koechner and Carell too help hold the group together, four freakishly dissimilar folks who bond through their love of the news, partying and carousing. Also look for Fred Willard as Channel 4's producer, Chris Parnell as his nerdy assistant, Seth Rogen as a cameraman, and Danny Trejo as an angry bartender.
There are certain moments here that rise above that same old, same old comedy formula. On top of the countless lines worth quoting, there are certain set pieces that take this comedy to a special place. One of my favorites? Rudd's Fantana revealing his hidden musk/scent display to Ron, especially the illegal Sex Panther (it's got bits of real panther so you know it's good), is ridiculously funny. Ron trying to impress Veronica on their date is priceless, both sitting in his car overlooking San Diego, Ron citing all sorts of "history" about the city. How they finally got a take without laughing I'll never know. There is no doubt about the best scene though, Ron and the Channel 4 News Team engaging in a brutal street fight with rival news teams. The cameos are priceless including Vince Vaughn as hate-filled Wes Mantooth, second in the ratings, Luke Wilson (3rd ranked), Tim Robbins (PBS) and Ben Stiller (Spanish). Words don't describe how stupid this scene is, and that's why it works. It works because it's stupid, it knows it, and it embraces the stupidity. Also look for Jack Black in a quick cameo earlier.
Maybe more than any genre, comedies are subjective because senses of humor can be so all over the place. This is that special kind of bizarre humor, but it works. How could a movie narrated by legendary newscaster Bill Kurtis not be good at least a little bit? Enough talking, it's a classic. Brace yourself for the laughs and lots of them. Stay tuned tomorrow for a review of the Anchorman sequel.
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004): ****/****