Old Review: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron BurgundyMeet Ron Burgundy, he is the Anchorman on KVWN-TV’s Channel 4 Evening News, the highest rated news program in San Diego. Along with his news team, consisting of field reporter Brian Fantana, Sportscaster Champion Kind and Meteorologist Brick Tamland, he works hard to make sure the city is informed of what is happening in San Diego as it is his responsibility to tell the citizens of the 1970s what is happening each day. One day however, all things in the news station changes when a new female broadcaster from North Carolina, Veronica Corningstone, is hired to work. After an awkward first impression, Ron builds a romantic relationship with Veronica, and she strives to be on anchor, determined to show that it doesn’t take a man to broadcast the news. Their relationship takes a U-turn when Ron ends up late to the station one day and Veronica takes a chance at being the anchor in his place, doing so well that she becomes co-anchor of the evening news, giving Ron the idea that she is stealing his thunder. This feud between them goes out of control when Veronica ends up making Ron lose his career. Since there are bitter rivals in the world of news broadcasting, even in San Diego, with a big story is not too far away that they all want to get to receive high ratings, and Ron Burgundy is the best man to broadcast it for KVWN-TV Channel 4, Ron, his friends and even Veronica need to do what they can to bring Burgundy back to the anchor.

Unlike past Will Ferrell films, this was the first film he did most of the writing for. According to Will himself, the character Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone were mainly inspired from an interview with female anchor Jessica Savitch, where she recalled one of her coworkers being a male chauvinist back when she worked as an anchor back in the 1970s, and from that he had the idea for the film he wanted to make. He surprisingly showed a lot of ideas for the film, even including a list of suggested actors for various roles in his first draft. Standup comic Adam McKay was interested in the film and helped with the writing, and offered to direct it. Even though they were extremely eager with the film and Ferrall already showed himself as a good comedic actor before, it took 20 pitches before Dreamworks agreed to put it in production in July 2003, thinking the idea wouldn’t be successful. The fact that the film broke profit in it’s opening weekend in July 2004 clearly proved them wrong, and it later went on to gross over $90 million.

The cinematography and the visuals actually shows a lot of effort, the opening sequence looks classic, the design of the characters look close to the 1970s and it’s very authentic. Another positive is that outside of video cuts, camera effects and the occasional green screen and titling effects, special effects are actually very minimal, I say that’s a positive because the closest things they get to special effects are very poor. Since I’m a reviewer of anime and animated films, I cannot help but mention the one fully animated sequence in this film, while it’s screams Big-Lipped Alligator moment since it technically comes out of nowhere, has nothing to do with the plot other than it happened after a romantic sequence, and it is never mentioned again, it actually looks quite good. The animation is smooth, the scene is very colourful and it’s nice to watch, my only problem is that Ron and Veronica feel poorly placed from a bad green screen and it is very short.

The music is also quite fitting to a 1970s American setting; there is a mix of jazz and even a little western. There is a good amount of scenes that have no music so the dialogue sets the atmosphere. I can’t honestly say much about the music since there is nothing to complain about it, except that it isn’t really impressive or memorable.

One think I hate about this film, is that I hate Ron Burgundy and how Will Ferrell portrays Ron Burgundy. I get that he’s meant to be a popular Anchorman so he always thinks good about himself and thinks everyone around him adores him, and I know he film takes place in the 1970s so sexism would occur, but when you get to the straight facts, he is stupid, and an arrogant jerk. This is not the character that we are meant to laugh with and sympathies; this is the character who we laugh at because he’s the villain. If he was the villain I wouldn’t hate Ron, but he’s meant to be the dependable and comedic protagonist so I do. With that in mind, every other actor is actually likable or really great to watch in their performances. Christina Applegate does such a good job I’m surprised she wasn’t recognized that much as a film actress, she takes work seriously, she’s intelligent and she knows how to stop a guy from hitting her, at least in the first half in the film. But the best character in the entire film is Steve Carell as Brick Tamland. Every scene he appeared in made me laugh, and I wish there were more scenes with him, but he’s a minor character so I can’t expect much.

The film was able to get a lot of comedic actors on board such as Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, and Jack Black. While I mentioned Steve Carell being brilliant in this film, all the other actors are disappointing. Vince Vaughn is a poor excuse for a villain, Ben Stiller playing a Latino-American is just ridiculous, and Jack Black is only in one short scene that didn’t deserve him being in the credits.

The main problem with having a comedy focusing on a character, is that the character has to be likable in order to sympathise with him or her as well as finding him or her funny, because that character is the protagonist, meaning the good points either outweigh or evenly balance the bad points. This is a problem because I cannot find anything good about him at all, like I said before, he is an arrogant and stupid jerk, and he barely improves throughout the film.

It’s not a good sign when the film picks the worst protagonist from its list of characters, because when you face the facts, Veronica Corningstone is the better protagonist by a long shot. She is likable; someone that real life people can connect with, it’s funny to see her interact with people and she was actually based on someone people recognised at the time. Her story is much more interesting because she has a goal that is clearly given and progresses through the film, she wants to be a news anchor, but she knows how difficult that is in her time because she is working in a business with men who care little for women other than for how they look, instead of how they perform. When she gets a chance to be at the news desk, she shows what she has got, and when it’s shown she has done well, it creates a divide between the people who think she has proven diversity works, and people who don’t like her because they think the old way of news broadcasting is the better way, it’s the brilliant social commentary for the treatment of women in businesses over thirty years ago and in some debatable case, the treatment of woman now. But no, all she ends up is a poorly written love interest for a man who everybody is supposed to find the more important character, because he is a well respected individual  who in real life is lonely inside because he has never felt love from another person, and it’s stupid. You could argue that it’s a comedy, and so it shouldn’t be taken seriously for its story, but when one of my favourite comedies is about a man wanting out of a dull and boring desk job in a software company, I beg to differ.

The other storyline being the war between newscasters is what I believe to be a trend in modern comedies I call “The Blitzball Plot”, where a film is set in a world where a certain sport is apparently the only competitive sport is played in the world because it is purposely overblown, treated like the only kind of entertainment and a storyline is entirely centred around it, like Blitzball in Final Fantasy X. The War between Newscasters is that kind of plot and it’s very poorly done. It’s kind of funny seeing Will Farrell and Vince Vaughn name-bashing over TV ratings, and arguing over whether TV ratings show what the better News Broadcasting Network is, it doesn’t go anywhere beyond an over the top 20 man fight and a sub-plot over a pregnant panda, and I wish I made that last one up.

If I was giving my opinion on how funny this film is, then it is funny. It has funny and some memorable characters, some of the jokes are decent and well timed and if you want a laugh it is worth watching. But as a film, and even as a comedic film, it is poor. We are meant to find a man who is an egotistical idiot to be the main character and the main focus on the overall storyline, passing on the more interesting character that would’ve given the film a more interesting plot, while still being a good comedy.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is available from Dreamworks. Less than half a year after its premiere, a straight-to-DVD pseudo sequel titled “Wake Up, Ron Burgundy” which contains some scenes cut from the original film is also available from Dreamworks, and is available with some versions of the original film and Will Farrell boxsets. A journal type book, titled “The Many Months of Ron Burgundy” is also available with some versions of both “Anchorman “and “Wake Up, Ron Burgundy”.

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