Reigning supreme in the mid-1970s as San Diego's premiere newscaster, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), along with his team of reporters, including sportscaster Champ (David Koechner), brain dead weatherman Brick (Steve Carell), and lifestyle reporter Brian (Paul Rudd), live like kings in their market. When an ambitious female reporter, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), makes her way on to Ron's airwaves, he can't help but fall in love. Things soon change, however, when she assumes the role of co-anchor and Ron's perfect world is infiltrated, forcing the anchorman to fight rabidly to keep his job.
Will Ferrell has made his way triumphantly through various scene-stealing supporting parts in films like "Old School" and "Dick," leaving huge laughs and a potential for bigger movies in his wake. Last winter's "Elf" was Ferrell's first chance at a leading role, albeit one that required yellow tights and playing second fiddle to Santa's magic. "Anchorman" (IMDb listing) takes the sneaky, idiosyncratic Ferrell of his "Saturday Night Live" glory days and builds an entire movie around his antics. The end product is a film that is often hysterical, but possibly pitched just a little too harshly for general audiences.
"Anchorman" traffics in the theater of the absurd. Ferrell and his director/co-screenwriter Adam McKay (also from "SNL," and making his feature debut here) waste no time chaining an anvil to the audiences' leg and tossing them into the deep rivers of their comedic imaginations. Ferrell's unique timing and gift with wacky material have always been his selling points, but even being prepared for a freak show of comedic targets isn't quite enough to take in the scope of this film's oddities. McKay is not a director who says "no" often, giving the picture a license to get as far out as it can. Burgundy and Corningstone post-coital? It's an elaborate animated sequence where the characters ride unicorns and look for places to have sex on rainbows. A little local news competition? That's envisioned here as a violent, back alley free-for-all battle royale between the stations, where limbs are chopped, men are impaled by tridents, and unfortunate souls set ablaze. There's also a profoundly funny bit involving Burgundy's dog, whose barks the anchorman can clearly understand, that is, until the dog starts to bark in Spanish.
See? I told you it gets odd.
McKay refuses to put a muzzle on the carnival-like proceedings, which I admire endlessly, but also admit that it hurts "Anchorman" in the end. The individual gags are excellent, but aren't fused together, leaving a disjointed film, closely resembling an "SNL" skit that didn't expect to survive past dress rehearsal. Without much of a plot, outside of the interesting exploration of the rampant 1970 misogyny that was a staple of the era and the occupation, "Anchorman" gently breezes from one situation to the next, ranging from the embarrassingly unfunny (pretty much just Steve Carell and Applegate), to the uproarious (a climatic scuffle between the news team and some grizzly bears). Factor in some fun cameos (led by Vince Vaughn as a rival newscaster), and "Anchorman" is a terrifically enjoyable motion picture that delivers on the laughs and the strange. But one cannot help but feel a slight pang of disappointment considering the canvas McKay and Ferrell had at their disposal.
Filmfodder Grade: B+