As terminally goofy as Will Ferrell seems, he displays undeniable commitment and conviction to his comedic choices.
Whether he’s the excited cowbell player for Blue Oyster Cult, Buddy the naive elf or Frank “The Tank” Ricard, his buffoonery is believable because Ferrell plays them as characters, not caricatures.
Ferrell always has been zealous about not winking at the audience, and he’s never found a more winning vehicle for that than in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.
Yes, it’s an aggressively silly parody of television news, 1970s lifestyles and Burt Reynolds movies. Yes, its plot makes A Night at the Roxbury resemble Memento in comparison. And, no, all its actors do not get the courtesy of having a character. (Christina Applegate is a plot functionary, behaving whichever way the laughs dictate.)
But Ferrell and director / co-writer Adam McKay have created a film with go-for-broke inventiveness that never lets up, loaded with non-sequitur catchphrases, equal splitting of comedic gold between the main players and splendid side trips into the absurd. Never before has a movie that is essentially skits strung together been as sidesplitting as this.
San Diego loves Ron Burgundy (Ferrell). After all, he’s the best newsman in town, his Channel 4 consistently ranked No. 1 in the ratings. But he and his boys-club news team (Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Steve Carell, rounding out a fine comedic quartet) aren’t promoting much diversity at the station, and Burgundy has tired of his partying days with them.
Enter Veronica Corningstone (Applegate), a tenacious reporter who’s crashed into the glass ceiling before and isn’t looking to do it again. Still, she falls for Burgundy’s empty-headed seduction. But when a mishap with Burgundy’s beloved dog (violence rendered silly by an obvious doggie double) causes him to miss a broadcast, Veronica slips in as an anchor replacement, becomes a hit and puts Burgundy’s job and love for her in jeopardy.
Anchorman is bursting with so many funny bits that it would be a shame to ruin any of them completely here. But some deserve specific mention.
The “Pleasure Town” sequence is, like the brainwashing scenes of Zoolander, an amazingly weird mixture of animation and live-action. A brawl between San Diego newsmen features a parade of perfectly pitched cameos and pokes fun at Planet of the Apes and West Side Story. The finale involving animal communication is deranged brilliance.
And who knows if Carell has a comedic career outside of news-based spoofs (The Daily Show, Bruce Almighty)? Here, as the mentally deficient weatherman Brick Tamland, he doesn’t even need to open his mouth to get laughs. When he does, though, he easily runs away with each scene.
Instantly quotable and destined for classic comedic status, Anchorman gets the highest rating because its laughs deliver on the promise of what it’s selling, and it’s unapologetic about doing so.
It’s not high art, but it is easily the funniest and best comedy of this year.