"Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" takes us back to those halcyon days of the 1970's, when the hair was as big as the lapels and women were just beginning to assume their rightful place in America's television newsrooms.
Will Ferrell plays a Ted Baxter-type anchorman (is it mere coincidence that his dog is named Baxter?) - vain, narcissistic, none too gifted in the brains department - who has worked for years as the sole news dispenser at a top-rated San Diego station. All is going well for Ron Burgundy until the station manager decides the newscast needs a bit more "diversity" and hires a female reporter named Veronica Cornerstone (Christina Applegate) to come on board. Cornerstone is a brainy, blow-dried blonde with a driving ambition to be the first female anchor on network news. Since most of the men who work at the station, including Burgundy, are dyed-in-the-wool misogynists, Ms. Cornerstone faces an uphill battle of sexist comments, schoolboy pranks, and subtle (and not so subtle) undermining as she climbs her way to the top (though she is not above pulling a few dirty tricks herself to get what she wants). Things really get dicey when Burgundy and Cornerstone begin dating and quickly fall in love, a situation rife with potential disaster as Cornerstone begins to encroach on Burgundy's professional territory.
"Anchorman" is a light-hearted, enjoyable little comedy that, unlike a full-throated satire (say, like "Network"), often goes for the easy laugh instead of the incisive barb. The movie is at its best when it is parodying the corny graphics and the tendency to over hype the trivial ("Panda Watch: Day 46") that define modern newscasts - and at its worst when it is indulging in silly, often scatological jokes and slapstick throw away bits. Like most mainstream comedies, the humor in "Anchorman" ranges from the mildly funny to the downright hilarious, the latter including a clever "West Side Story" parody involving a rumble between rival news teams, and a conversation between a dog and a bear that ends the movie on a ludicrous but knee-slapping high note.
Ferrell (who co-wrote the film) is his usual manic self, unctuous but likable, and Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, and Fred Willard do fine work in supporting roles. Moreover, writer/director Adam McKay provides a smattering of guest appearances from such well known stars as Jack Black, Luke Wilson, Tim Robbins, Vince Vaughn, Jerry Stiller and even Ben Stiller, many of who are not listed in the official credits.
"Anchorman" goes down easily - a bit too easily, perhaps, for a film that, with a little more courage, might have become a scathing satire on an industry that could do with a little merciless skewering right about now. Still, "Anchorman" is fun while it lasts - and these days we'll settle for what we can get when it comes to laughs.
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