Sunday 23 February 2020

Movie Review: Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy (2004)

A satire of television newsrooms in a male-dominated era, Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy features more comic misses than hits and falls victim to the culture it attempts to skewer.

It's the 1970s in San Diego, and Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is the leading news anchorman in town. Unintelligent but possessing self-proclaimed excellent hair and therefore full of himself, he leads an entourage consisting of sportscaster "Champ" (David Koechner), field reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and imbecilic weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell).

Their reign of toxic masculinity using the workplace as hunting grounds for women is threatened when station manager Ed (Fred Willard) hires ambitious news reporter Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) in the name of improving diversity. Ron and his buddies immediately make gauche moves to seduce and belittle Veronica intending to stop her career before it starts, but she proves a tough opponent.

Featuring plenty of improvisation and no shortage of vulgarity, Anchorman showers the screen with coarse humour. With a cast also including Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Seth Rogen in minor roles, the talent surplus is not matched by sharp wit. The comedy is often at the throw-the-dog-off-the-bridge slapstick level, compounded by plenty of outright yelling and wailing.

The ultra male shenanigans step well over the stupid border, and while a few moments of humour survive and a couple of lines land, the film remains mired in a clueless celebration of body parts and imbecility.

The counterbalance is provided by Christina Applegate's steady role as Veronica Corningstone, and she emerges as the best thing in the movie, working hard for future generations to truncate the man in Anchorman. The film is not smart enough and too invested in Burgundy to properly leverage Corningstone's strengths, but expanding her perspective would have dramatically enhanced the otherwise flimsy narrative.

The more positive notes include a delightful non-sequitur gang rumble scene and Steve Carell's deadpan interventions. Director Adam McKay does create a wonderfully ridiculous visual feast awash in loud 1970s clothes, absurd hair and the decade's sickly colours (brown and orange everywhere), although a lack of ambition prevents a meaningful extension of the aesthetic to the outdoors.

A mostly tedious exercise in attempted hilarity, Anchorman is too smug and self-satisfied with guys believing the legend in the mirror.

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