July 09, 2004

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Directed by Adam McKay Starring Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Fred Willard and Paul Rudd

Reviewed by Martin Tsai

At first glance, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy appears to have the right ingredients for cooking up a successful comedy. Set in a not-too-distant past where political correctness is nonexistent-as in the Austin Powers franchise-the film stages a workplace battle of the sexes reminiscent of Nine to Five.

The film features an airhead news anchor similar to the Ted Baxter character on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Despite its promising premise, Anchorman feels like a missed opportunity as many of its ideas remain half baked when the credits roll.

Will Ferrell stars as Ron Burgundy, a top-rated news anchor in 1970s San Diego whose sole talents seem to be reading the teleprompter, playing the jazz flute and conversing with his pet dog. Ron and his uniformly inept "news team" revel in fraternizing and drinking scotch on the job, until the station recruits its first female reporter Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) in an attempt to diversify the newsroom. Veronica and Ron quickly storm up a romance, but her ambition of one day becoming a network news anchor threatens his ego, and their relationship.

The film gives a few interesting-if unexpected-glimpses of the dynamics between the genders in the 1970s workplace: as a woman working in a male-dominated atmosphere, Veronica faces frequent sexual harassment from her chauvinist-pig co-workers. To her dismay, her gender also relegates her to covering such trivia as a cat fashion show or a meatloaf recipe, over hard-hitting news. These plot elements stand out and seem to demand further development. But the film doesn't even begin to address these issues in a meaningful way.

Aside from its lack of substance, Anchorman fails on a comedic level. Saturday Night Live alumnus Ferrell has written the screenplay with director Adam McKay, a former SNL scribe. While the similarly nostalgic Austin Powers films have various early Michael Caine vehicles and James Bond films to serve as reference points, Anchorman has very little to draw on and often appears to be a one punch-line joke more appropriate as an SNL skit.

There are a few memorable moments of irreverence, but the film exhausts its shtick rapidly in the short 95-minute running time. It gets sadly desperate when it relies on cameo performances by Vince Vaughn, Jack Black, Luke Wilson, Tim Robbins and Ben Stiller as a source for laughs.

By the time the film ventures into its final climactic scenes involving talking animals, Anchorman no longer entertains or even remotely engages its viewers.

Reprinted from WestEnder. © Copyright 2004 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.