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With: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Fred Willard, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Chris Parnell, Kathryn Hahn, Fred Armisen, Seth Rogen, Paul F. Tompkins, Danny Trejo, Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Tim Robbins, Vince Vaughn
Written by: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay
Directed by: Adam McKay
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual humor, language and comic violence
Running Time: 98
Date: 07/09/2004
IMDB

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Boys Are Back on TV

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After Will Ferrell's successful first starring role in Elf, it became immediately apparent that it would be difficult for this strange comedian to find suitable roles. Ferrell has the uncanny ability to retreat into childlike behavior, channeling thoughts and feelings directly from his subconscious without any filtering. He hasn't yet been defeated by the world and his logic sometimes doesn't entirely connect.

And yet, somehow Ferrell has managed a follow-up even funnier and more perfectly suited than Elf. Anchorman, subtitled The Legend of Ron Burgundy, tells the story of a 1970s-era television anchorman. In a much simpler time, men ruled the airwaves and competition from cable and internet was a long way off.

Burgundy (Ferrell) is the number one rated TV newsman in San Diego and he loves it. He goes to parties, drinks and picks up women. He can say practically anything he wants and people listen. That's perhaps because the rest of his news team, Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Champ Kind (David Koechner) and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), is even dumber than he is.

Everything changes when the studio hires its first female journalist, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). She becomes Burgundy's love interest while cunningly maneuvering her way to the news desk beside Burgundy, then replacing him.

I was worried that Anchorman would, like many recent comedies, suddenly collapse during the third act and concentrate on wrapping up its plot. But this movie remains funny until the final frame, as our news crew struggles amongst their local competitors to cover the story of the year -- perhaps the "greatest story in the history of the world" -- the birth of a baby panda.

Ferrell and his crew have a great deal of fun with the naiveté of the 1970s, i.e. wearing bad cologne to attract women, or performing an a cappella rendition of "Afternoon Delight." In one sequence, Burgundy and Corningstone travel to an animated "Pleasure Land" during sex.

Ultimately, Anchorman works so well because Ferrell's persona fits flawlessly into this world of overgrown boys working men's jobs. The film cleverly comments on this through Applegate's crafty Corningstone, who radiates intelligence and independence without killing the jolly mood. (It's quite a switch from her most famous role to date, the dim-witted sexpot Kelly Bundy on TV's "Married... with Children.")

But the funniest moments come when Ferrell allows his subconscious to roam free, coming up with one-liners so weird that they can only make you laugh. He also has a way of making ordinary lines ("that squirrel can water ski!") sound funny.

The movie's only flaw comes when the Channel 4 news crew wanders into enemy territory and fights a turf war with the Channel 9 evening news team (led by Vince Vaughn). From out of nowhere, three more news teams show up, led by various big stars in cameos. One of them is Ben Stiller, of course, in his sixth film this year. I'm getting so fed up with him that I can barely stand it. (The audience cheered their heads off, much to my frustration.)

Despite that, Anchorman is a blisteringly hysterical film. Surprisingly, a familiar name pops up during the many "producer" credits: David O. Russell, the incendiary director behind Three Kings (1999) who has yet to make a follow-up film. Indeed, Anchorman smacks of a film that might have been much darker and more revealing than it already is. But it couldn't be funnier.

Dreamworks' DVD release is presented in a new version called the "Unrated, Uncut & Uncalled For" edition. The restored footage is mostly disgusting stuff that deserved to be cut, such as Burgundy eating a cat dropping. The disc's extras are above average, as they mostly feature more of Ferrell in character. Perhaps the funniest is the "Afternoon Delight" music video, but the disc also comes with loads of deleted scenes and a commentary track by Ferrell and director Adam McKay.

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