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Monday, July 12, 2004

Anchorman Review

I have to endorse Anchorman, but only mildly. Basically a series of unconnected gags, it’s still worth your time, but don’t expect a comedy committed to either the character (a la Zoolander) or period cliches (a la Wet Hot American Summer). Will Ferrell clearly enjoys himself playing the simple-minded local god of the Channel 4 Evening News, Ron Burgundy; he can hardly contain himself in some scenes (he just spews improv). But Paul Rudd, as field reporter Brian Fantana, one of Ron’s sidekicks, stumbles in a performance I would call over-prepared – the spontaneity just isn’t there, and the contrast is pretty stark next to Ferrell's manic naivete. And while the sports guy, played by someone I’ve never seen before (David Koechner) is mildly amusing, his one-note shtick got old fast. I have to give mad props, however, to Steven Carell, whom I know from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, as the frighteningly imbecilic weather guy. Although he only had one job in this movie – to spout nonsensical non-sequiturs – his timing and delivery was so perfect that I cracked up every single time.

Christina Applegate, as Virginia Corningstone, aspiring anchor and foil for Ron and his polyester posse, seemed brittle (and was lit really harshly, I thought, for a comedy). Her best moments were when she was playing off Will Ferrell in their incessant insult-fests (at any minute, I expected Ron to shriek, "Virginia, you ignorant slut!"). But there wasn’t much for her to do in this film.

This film could have been a work of art. With more commitment to the period (dress, language, the importance of local news anchors before cable, d├ęcor, cars, sexual promiscuity) it could have been a brilliant send-up of the time; with more consistency in Ron’s character (the film couldn’t decide if he was a sweet loser or a vicious horndog) it could have created a franchise, or at least an enduring cult movie. Instead, we got a smorgasbord of gags, most funny on their own, but never coming together into a cohesive whole.

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