Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is yet another wreck of a vehicle for Will Ferrell's comedic talent. He plays Ron Burgundy, the top-rated TV anchorman at KVWN in San Diego. Pompous and chauvinistic (yet occasionally kindhearted), Burgundy is master of all he surveys: smoking and drinking on the TV set ("I love Scotch."), hitting on the women he works with ("How are you? You look nice today. Maybe don't wear a bra next time.") And he reigns supreme over a posse of men who comprise his "news team": rowdy sportscaster Champ Kind; sauve field reporter Brian Fantana; and the clueless weatherman, Brick Tamland. The team works, plays and debauches together, with Burgundy leading the way.
This boys' club is thrown into instant disarray upon the arrival of Veronica Corningstone, a talented, feisty female determined to succeed in the male-dominated TV business. Of course Burgundy and his team greet Veronica's "intrusion" onto their turf the only way they know how, by asserting their perceived dominance. "It's anchorman," Champ opines, "not anchorlady." "We need to bed her quick," says another.
Veronica easily rebuffs the crude passes of Burgundy's lieutenants, but, sadly, falls prey to him. She hopes to keep their love affair under the table. Burgundy, truly smitten, doesn't. The resulting interplay between their love and rivalry drives the story to an unlikely showdown between Burgundy, Veronica and the news team—and a family of grumpy grizzly bears.
One of the film's funniest scenes hints at the emptiness of promiscuity. Following Burgundy's announcement to the newsroom that he and Veronica slept together and that he's in love, Brian asks, "What's it like?" Burgundy responds, "The intimate stuff?" To which Brian says, "No, the other part: being in love." Sex is almost the only subject Burgundy and his boys talk about, yet for just a moment, Brian longs for something deeper.
Burgundy's touching affection and loyalty to his dog, a little terrier named Baxter, reveals a kind spot in his heart. (Burgundy and Baxter sleep in matching pajamas and retainers for their teeth.) [Spoiler Warning] By film's end, Burgundy accepts Veronica as an equal. Instead of hogging the spotlight, he voluntarily shares it with her. And he begins to acknowledge Veronica's skill as an anchorwoman, not just as a sex partner.
Burgundy says to his dog, "You're like a miniature Buddha."
Crude conversations, salacious joking, over-the-top visual gags and sexual innuendoes go on and on. After the station wins a ratings sweep, the employees celebrate with a private pool party attended by women wearing bathing suits and lingerie. Burgundy meets Veronica at this party; twice he propositions her crudely. Another character at the party tries to impress a woman by telling her the name he's given his genitals.
Each of the four news-team members makes a pass (or worse) at Veronica. Champ gropes her breasts; she responds by hitting him in the crotch. Brian tries to woo her using "Sex Panther" cologne; she tells him it "smells like a diaper filled with Indian food." Brick clumsily tries to tell her he has a "party in his pants." And when Burgundy asks her out at the station, he gets an erection that receives a lot of camera time.
Veronica briefly resists Burgundy's amorous advances, then caves in and has sex with him. (There's no nudity, and the camera doesn't linger on anything beyond kissing, but animated inserts and "cutesy" dialogue let the audience know what's going on.) What the filmmakers failed to take into account is that the fact that she has sex with him so easily greatly undermines their attempt to ultimately portray her as a victorious, worthy woman.
It's hinted at that Champ may have homosexual tendencies. And it's implied that station manager Ed Harken's young son has a stash of pornography. (Ed tries to minimize the problem by saying everyone looks at pornography.)
Burgundy tosses some litter out of his car which results in a nearby biker having an accident. In retaliation the biker picks Baxter up and punts him off a bridge into the ocean.
Burgundy and Veronica have a knock-down drag-out fight in the office, hurling office equipment (a typewriter) at each other and crushing desks and furniture. Veronica also maces Burgundy in the face, twice.
One of the subplots is the news station's rabid rivalry with the other stations in town. It runs so deep that five different news crews arrive in an abandoned warehouse district for an old-fashioned rumble with knives, bats, chains and guns. The fight gets violent in a Monty Python kind of way: One character gets his arm hacked off with knife; another ends up with a pitchfork in his back; still another is lit on fire. The violence is surprisingly graphic, yet it's executed with a tone that's supposed to be funny.
Burgundy, Veronica and the news team also end up in a ridiculous battle against a family of grizzly bears. They come through more or less intact, but the news reporter who lost one arm in the gang battle has his other arm ripped off when one of the bears jumps up and grabs it.
Ed is told his son is shooting people. Burgundy threatens to hit Veronica in the ovaries. Wes punches the news van.
Crude or Profane Language
The film is liberally sprinkled with profanity and vulgarities. The s-word, f-word, and Jesus' name each pop up once. "G--d--n" is used twice. Milder profanities make numerous appearances. Characters use many crude euphemisms for different parts of the body or bodily functions.
Drug and Alcohol Content
As are many movies that depict the '70s, this one is marked with almost constant use of alcohol and tobacco. Burgundy and Veronica, as well as most of the other characters, smoke and drink their way through the film. And they're usually consuming hard liquor, such as Scotch, not just beer or wine. Burgundy's overindulgent use of these substances on the TV set is most obvious, perhaps a satirical attempt to represent the excesses of the decade.
Ed remarks that his son was on acid and was shooting arrows into a crowd. At his lowest point, Burgundy temporarily looks and acts like a drunken homeless man.
Will Ferrell is one of America's fastest rising comedic stars. In addition to his long stint as a Saturday Night Live regular, his success in the films Old School and Elf has elevated him to "must see" status—and broadened his audience base.
Ferrell's appeal lies in his straight-faced (if not straight-laced) humor. In one Anchorman scene he's "talking" to his terrier, Baxter, at the end of the day. Baxter barks, and Ferrell responds as if he's having a conversation with a wise mentor. Near the end of their "conversation," he deadpans, "You know I don't speak Spanish." He's adept at making many of his lines, like this one, belly-laugh funny—and teens are eating it up.
But teens (and most adults) aren't going to automatically understand what Ferrell claims is the point of Anchorman. His inspiration came from a documentary on the blatant chauvinism of male TV personalities in the '70s. "It was such a fun era to look back on," he says. "We've kind of forgotten now what it was like because, for the most part, things have become more equal in terms of gender roles. But when you look back at the attitudes then, it seems so silly. It's great to be able to play on the fact that these guys are male chauvinists. We are not glorifying male chauvinists, we are making fun of them." (Ferrell and former SNL writer Adam McKay co-wrote the script. Thus, the film has a skit-like, SNL feel to it.)
What most moviegoers are going to walk away with instead is a twisted view of women's worth as human beings. Ron Burgundy makes some progress. But I question whether his character development is adequate to offset the onslaught of coarse humor and misogynistic themes—let alone the pervasive profanity, alcohol abuse, smoking and violence.
Here's the question I'm compelled to ask after seeing films such as this one and others of it's ilk (Dodgeball, anyone?): Does everything have to be quite so crude? The likes of Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller and Mike Myers certainly have the ability to craft great comedy without constantly resorting to such lowbrow tactics. Why can't they reach deeper into their bags of funny tricks and rely less on sexual laugh-getting ploys?
As it is, Anchorman is merely the latest in a long string of hugely disappointing films from funnymen who would serve their young fans better if they pulled their minds and their scripts out of the gutter.