Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Anchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgandy - 2004

"Anchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgandy" - 2004
Dir. by Adam McKay - 1 hr. 38 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

There's nothing better than a comedy that is still funny years later.  They're pretty few and far between, and more often due to a timeless premise (like "The Odd Couple") than being built around an individual's performance (like "The Jerk").  But they do happen, and "Anchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgandy" is still the best thing most of the people involved with this film have done to date.

The premise is simple: Ron Burgandy (Will Ferrell) is an anchorman in San Diego in the 1970's.  He's a buffoon, but a beloved one.  When Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) enters the picture, the chauvanistic knees all jerk, and the two leads go from lovers to bitter rivals.  The setting allows the cast to indulge in all the silly fashion quirks of that era, which would be insufferable in lesser hands.  Thankfully, the era itself isn't the point of the jokes.  Since the characters in general are so over-the-top, it makes sense for the fashion and decoration to be so as well.  Possibly the key to the entire thing is that there's never a moment where anyone figuratively winks to the camera; these characters inhabit their world fully, and do so with enthusiasm.

I couldn't tell you what it is that makes this movie so funny other than what I've just written; I can tell you that I laughed out loud over and over again as I was watching this (and this might have been my fourth or fifth viewing, although I hadn't re-watched it recently).  There are a couple of things that are noteworthy (and sometimes unusual with comedies).  First, the cast is ridiculous.  The actors (and Christina Applegate) in "Anchorman" are responsible for most of the memorable comedies since this film's release.  Will Ferrell is the star here, but Paul Rudd and Steve Carell both have gone on to do a lot of really good work since.  Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson, Fred Armison and Tim Robbins have small roles, and Ben Stiller, Danny Trejo and Seth Rogen have even smaller ones.  Nice b-squad, there.  The other notable thing is that while Ferrell is the star, he doesn't hog all the great lines for himself.  That's not to say that I'd expect him to, but some comedies are kind of hierarchical in terms of who gets to shine.  That's completely not the case here; Ferrell has his share of comedic freak-outs, but literally all of the main characters have at least one classic, memorable line or scene.  My favorite line: Champ Kind's (David Koechner) diss directed at Wesley Mantooth's mother.  The line I quote most often (to my dog): "You know I don't speak Spanish."

Perhaps the most important member of the cast is Christina Applegate.  She's usually the best part of whatever she's in, and it's a pleasure to see her not only knock yet another role out of the park, but to stand toe-to-toe with whomever she's on-screen with.  Ron Burgandy is such a strong character (and performance), but it wouldn't be nearly as funny without an equally funny (and strong) foil.  Also thankfully, she doesn't play a fun-killer (an unfortunately common role for women in comedies); when Ron spots a rainbow in a fantasy sequence, she says, "Do me on it."  She's not putting a damper on things, she's along for the ride and willing to take things one step further.

Now that I've heaped praise on everyone I can think of, there's not a lot more to say than that this movie is shaping up to be a comedy classic.  My earlier comparison to "The Jerk" is one that I'll stand by.  This is an absurd, fun movie that works according to it's own logic, and is filled with energetically silly performances.  I find it impossible not to get caught up in the fun.  What's not to like about that?

4.5 / 5 - DVD (Unrated Edition)

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