Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) is, along with Freddy Got Fingered (2001) and Wet Hot American Summer (2001) , one of my favorite comedies of the aughts (and I guess Dan seems to agree with me, at least in the case of two out of the three). Adam McKay’s film is one of the handful of movies that, when I encounter it anywhere, it seduces my attention. I’m not really sure why the film appeals to me this strongly so, in order to try to make heads from tails, I’m writing up another real-time review.
1:17: I think part of what makes this film work so well is that it takes the classic screwball formula of the battle of the sexes as its foundation. Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are characters that, while hilarious, also have oddly “real” motivations for inhabitants of a comedy. Ron, despite his womanizing, is clearly a lonely, desperate man who finds his equal in Veronica, a woman who is stuck walking the tight rope between recognizing her sexual desires and her drive to be an anchorwoman. Veronica is probably one of the best written female characters in a Judd Apatow production…
4:40: Aww, Steve Carell’s Brick. Those glasses and his cadence just make his idiot work so well.
5:23: Stay Classy, San Diego.
6:22: The Paul Rudd variable. I think almost any movie with Rudd is endlessly watchable (I Love You, Man, even Role Models, which actually had its moments). Unlike other Apatow performers (mainly Seth Rogen), Rudd’s persona elicits empathy, even when he’s an asshole. There is simply something endearing about his awkwardness. Celery Man, lives!
8:44: The introduction of Veronica. McCay almost over-empathizes her importance and how she, quite simply, rocks Ron’s world. The Bill Withers’ track (“Use Me”), the slow-motion shot, etc. Considering the speech Ron delivers to her (“I wanna say something, gonna put it out there….I wanna be on you. Wait…. I wanna be on you.”), it’s a little too on the nose for my taste. Still, Ferrell plays the pompousness so well (“I don’t quite know how to put this but I’m kind of a big deal.”) and it is lamentable that his Ron turned into his defining type. It’s a hell of a character but, like most carbon copies, it loses fidelity upon replication.
13:39: Forgot about Chris Parnell. Probably happens quite a bit.
14:07: Again with the musical cues overplaying the hand: “Who’s that Lady” by the Isley Brothers? Great song, but kinda stereotypical. Having the music “follow” around the space also makes it abundantly clear that Ron wants to be on her.
15:27: “It is ANCHORMAN, not ANCHORLADY and that is a scientific fact!” Again, there are real world stakes that come from the ludicrousness of Anchorman’s San Diego. The sexual politics of the media world in the 70s, highlighted by Veronica’s voice over, are a believable obstacle. Moreover, the film’s discussion of the masculine/feminine binary is fairly deep for comedy (“You sound like a gay!,” Champ says to Ron when he tells him of his feelings for Veronica). The ideal, unlike Jerry Seinfeld’s discover, is to find a happy medium. Assertive, confident, romanticism.
20:23: I totally missed the Vince Vaughn thing. Fuck!
21:30: Applegate has quite the presence. Her balance of assertiveness, sexuality, and comic timing are underutilized. Apatow should write a female centered comedy for her and Tina Fey.
22:50: I would buy stock in Odeon if I got free samples of Sex Panther. I think it would really get the chicks. After all, 60% of the time, it works every time.
26:02: I’ve seen Ferrell’s gut before and the only thing the Doctor can give him is more cowbell.
26:45: Again, the film focuses on the construction of gender in Burgundy’s “gun show.” Can you imagine Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn having this exchange?
28:30: Panda Watch! The panda birth is the narrative lynch pin here. It feels like a throwaway gag at first, but it provides the entire set up for the third-act. Also, is it a coincidence that Ron and Veronica’s reunion (a trope of the comedy…a marriage in the third-act) is tied to a birth, a symbol of renewal? Well, of course, it’s a panda. Stop reading so deeply into things, Morton! This is a comedy!
32:25: Barack Obama runs a fine dining restaurant?
33:45: I’ve probably described too many genres of music as “babymaking music” in my lifetime.
36:03: Does that “What if, for tonight, we weren’t co-workers but co-people” thing really work?
37:42: Despite providing the name for this article, the “Take Me to Pleasure Town” sequence always struck me as being really out of place. So many other alternatives come to mind, that’s how far out of left-field it is. Why not involve Baxter in the sex scene? There’s a lot of potential there.
39:36: The Channel 4 News Team tries to determine the definition of love. A modern classic scene, between Rudd’s description of love being an encounter he had with an ethnic woman in the bathroom of a K-Mart to Brick’s confusion (or perhaps IKEA obsession). Did these guys actually perform “Afternoon Delight”? That last chorus is pretty great. And, of course, McKay and Ferrell introduce the concept of love only to undercut it with the end of the scene, where he is once again singled out for not embodying the definition of masculinity.
41:45: Seth Rogen! Speak of the bearded devil. Anyone else pretty burned out on his persona of asshole and schmuck? After Superbad (2007), I just couldn’t handle it anymore. Everyone talks about being sick of Michael Cera. I’m sick of Seth. Sorry bud, but I got burned out on you for the same reason I got sick of Ferrell after this: an overexposed typecast.
44:48: One of my favorite lines: “I miss you scene; I miss your musk. When this all gets settled out, I think you and I should get an apartment together!” “Take it easy Champ, why don’t you stop talking for a while.”
45:52: Burgundy is an odd character. He seems to genuinely buy into Veronica sharing his dream of being a network anchor, but then he tells the guys of his fantasy in which she is a housewife. His oscillations between masculine and feminine are very abrupt, as his fantasy gives way to his description of their ideal nuptials.
47:30: I wish my dad would let me drop acid and fire a bow-n-arrow into a crowd.
48:35: The voice-over structure in this movie is very off. It begins with Bill Kurtis’s semi-omniscient narration, only to give way to Veronica, which switches back to Kurtis. Oddly, the protagonist of the film, to my recollection, is never given the privilege. Can the subject of the legend actually tell his own story? Or is there a rule against that?
50:30: I guess Barbara Walters was the first female co-anchor (1976). According to her Wiki, she did not get along with her first co-anchor, Harry Reasoner, because he did not wish to have a co-anchor. Coincidence?
52:30: At least the filmmakers balanced out Ron’s schizophrenic shifts between Romanticism and sexism… Veronica on the air for the first time: “Power. Power. Power. That felt good!” She seems to have forgotten all about her poor, darling, Ron. Bitch.
55:06: Refreshed to see a romcom use the second act not to turn Veronica into a sexually unfaithful “scorpion woman,” but a unfaithful coworker. Still, why’s the woman always gotta bring sin into the garden?
57:25: Anyone see The Other Guys? Can’t remember who reviewed it here, but it was an improvement over the last couple Ferrell films, probably because he played it straight (at least the non-Gator scenes). Good to see Michael Keaton too, even if he was underutilized.
59:08: I love how Ron’s prank backfires. “I’m Tits…Ron Burgundy.”
60:06: I really want to watch “Dog Bites Man” (2006) all of a sudden.
60:47: Oh yes, the infamous suit shopping short cut turned West Side Storyesque rumble. My favorite reveal? Tim Robbins as the afroed, pipe carrying, PBS host. “Come get a taste.” Why does Luke Wilson always provide these thankless cameos? 3:10 to Yuma (2007), anyone?
65:04: “Policia!” That’s a longer-than-expected action scene. Still, so wonderfully over the top.
66:08: I guess Ron enjoys the High Life.
67:30: “You’re just a woman with a small-brain, a brain a third the size of our’s. It’s science.” Unfounded science is once again used to justify the sexism of the news office.
70:35: Did anyone pick up the Blu-Ray of this? I guess it is a Best Buy exclusive. It allegedly comes with the film Wake Up, Ron Burgundy” (2004), a feature-length “lost film” constructed out of discarded storylines. I’ve always been curious to see it. This is one of the few movies that producer Apatow actually knew how to cut…for the most part.
72:46: They say “fuck” a lot in this scene. Was this PG-13 or R? I know I’m watching the unrated DVD, but what the hell was the difference? Oh, guess it was this scene. And the scene featuring Ron’s marriage fantasy. And the cat poop. And the shit squirrel. I guess that makes sense.
73:14: Was that little Pearl!?
77:25: Holy Panda, this movie’s almost over!
79:13: Danny Trejo gives Burgundy the moral of the whole story but you gotta love how McKay undercuts the magical minority role: “What? I don’t speak Spanish.”
81:45: David O. Russell (The Fighter, I Heart Huckabees) was an executive producer? I wonder what that was like.
82:40: How could Dreamworks let an Anchorman sequel go? Pay cuts were agreed to, scheduling was overcome, and they turned down the proposal? It was a $26 million dollar film, grossed $90 worldwide in addition to becoming a cult classic on home video. I guess they’re putting all their money into another Transformers film instead. It’s not like it’s going to cost $100-150 mill like Tropic Thunder (2008) did.
86:45: Oops, I guess The Other Guys cost about that much. Oof. Well, blowing shit up probably costs a lot more than Paul Rudd.
88:49: My sequel idea had to do with the dawn of 24 hour news networks… Maybe work in some Bill O’Reilly types. Cast Colbert; he could bring his persona to the table as the political correspondent. I love it already.
91:36: Is that Mary Birdsong?
92:45: And that’s all she wrote… Carry on, wayward son.
And now, for a full overview of the cultural legend of Ron Burgundy, I present this clip, courtesy of the American Film Institute…
Drew Morton is a Ph.D. student in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of California-Los Angeles. His criticism and articles have previously appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the UWM Post, Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Flow, Mediascape, The Playlist, Senses of Cinema, and Studies in Comics. He is the 2008 and 2010 recipient of the Otis Ferguson Award for Critical Writing in Film Studies.