By Shawn McKenzie 07/12/2004
The new Will Ferrell movie Anchorman has had one of the most addictive ad campaigns I’ve seen for quite awhile. For two weeks before the movie opened, I had the line, “I love Scotch…Scotchy, Scotchy, Scotch” stuck in my head. Also, I loved the ads the week before it opened thanking America for making them the number one movie in the country, beating Spider-Man 2, despite the fact that they hadn’t opened yet. It had a lot to live up to, and fortunately, it delivered.
The movie takes place sometime in the late 1970s in San Diego during a time when nothing was really going on, so the biggest stories around were a waterskiing squirrel and Ling Wong the Panda giving birth. The #1 news station in San Diego is KVWN Channel 4, and its lead anchor, five-time Emmy winner Ron Burgundy (Ferrell), is one of the most popular people in town. His influence is widespread, as people get a good feeling while he reads the news, ending with his signature line, “You stay classy, San Diego.” If he has any faults, it’s that he is sexist and reads anything that the Tele-prompter tells him. He leads a boys club of a news team: sports guy Champ Kind (David Koechner) wears a cowboy hat and likes Ron a little too much, field reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) is a ladies man with an arsenal of pungent cologne, and weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) has an IQ of 48 and parrots whatever the group says. They are constantly beating the #2 KQHS Channel 9 news team, led by rival lead anchor Wes Mantooth (Vince Vaughn.) After getting the news from station manager Ed Harken (Fred Willard), whose son is some kind of psycho, that they were once again the top station, they party that night, and Ron meets a gorgeous blonde named Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate.) After she turns down his advances, Ron goes home lonely to his multi-lingual dog Baxter (though Ron can’t understand it when the mutt speaks Spanish.) The next day, Ed and his assistant, Garth Holliday (Chris Parnell), tell the team that the network wants diversity, and that they are adding a woman to the team. That woman turns out to be Veronica, which doesn’t sit well with the guys. They all immediately hit on her, and Ron is successful on his second attempt at her by taking things smooth. He impresses her with his “jazz flute” performance at Tino’s (Fred Armisen) Bar, and they head to “Pleasure Land” (this is what they have titled their goofy, animated sex scene that isn’t explicit in the slightest.) Despite her insistence that they keep the love affair quiet, he announces it loudly in the office and later on the air. The only way he can describe his love for Veronica to the guys is to lead them in a rendition of the Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight.” Even though she is sleeping with the lead anchor, she still wants to be a co-lead anchor, but Ed keeps assigning her fluff pieces like a cat fashion show. One day, a fateful incident turns the anchor tables. On his way to work, Ron throws an oversized burrito out his car window and accidentally hits a biker (Jack Black.) Even though the biker is unharmed, his bike is totaled, so he dropkicks Baxter over a bridge in retaliation (don’t worry animal advocates…it’s very obvious that Black punts a stuffed animal over the bridge instead of the real dog.) Ron goes into a deep depression and misses his broadcast for the first time ever. Veronica is the only one on the team ready to substitute for him, and after Ed reluctantly agrees to let her do the news, she does a flawless job. The network is so impressed that they insist on her remaining as co-anchor, which puts a huge rift in Ron and Veronica’s relationship. Veronica learns from Helen (Kathryn Hahn) about Ron’s Tele-prompter flaw, and tricks him into saying an expletive on the air. Ed is forced to fire him, and he drowns his sorrows in a bar drinking milk. When a big story soon hits, Ron thinks he might see the chance to get his job and his girl back again.
I’ve been a Ferrell fan for a couple of years now, and despite his turn in Elf not really impressing me, he has always cracked me up. He leads a great ensemble cast, but this is Ferrell’s baby. He co-wrote the screenplay with former “Saturday Night Live” head writer Adam McKay after reading about the struggles that anchorwoman Jessica Savitch went through in the beginning of her career. McKay makes his directorial debut with this movie, and I think that he is off to a good start.
While the sexist world of ‘70s TV news broadcasting isn’t the most familiar world to satirize, this movie expands beyond time. You might not be familiar with the topic, but I’m sure that sexism has infected many other areas of your life, and this movie will crack you up with its send-up of the topic.
Aside from the “Afternoon Delight” scene, several other scenes stand out. One of the best is a news anchor brawl halfway into the film. It is just an excuse to pack in many cameos, including Tim Robbins, Luke Wilson, and the 5,000th appearance of Ben Stiller in 2004, but it all works to comedic delight.
If I had one complaint about the film (which doesn’t affect my perfect rating of it), it would be that some of the ads include bits that weren’t in the movie. The one that sticks out is when Ron and Veronica crash onto a desk and Ron says, “Let’s make a baby!” I’ve seen that happen before in ads of other movies, and I’ve always wondered why they did that (it will probably be included as an extra on the DVD.)
I took a female friend to Anchorman, and she said that she wasn’t too crazy about it, saying that it won’t appeal to women. Since I am a selfish male (not really), I’m going to recommend that you ignore her. Take your wife or girlfriend to see this movie. It will make up for the fact that she dragged you to see The Notebook. I think that it is the funniest movie of the year so far, taking that title away from Mean Girls, which was also coincidentally written by a “SNL” head writer. Do I see a trend?
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