Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (review)
Not Breaking… Broke
I don’t generally see the point in talking too much about a film’s marketing — I let my Bias Meter do the talking for me on that subject. A studio comedy — like, say, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy — wins an “I’m dreading” slot there when all the “funny” bits in the trailer make me want to bash my own brains out to make the pain stop. Cuz I know that if these are all the “best” parts — and we all know that studio comedies overload their trailers with the only “funny” moments they have on offer — then the other 95 percent of the film, the non-trailer-worthy parts, will make me want to claw my eyes out so that I don’t have to watch any more.
I mean, if Will Ferrell walking into the open drawer of a file cabinet and Will Ferrell swatting women on the behind are the best that Anchorman can do, “dreading” doesn’t even begin to cover it.
But you know what? Will Ferrell walking into the open drawer of a file cabinet and Will Ferrell swatting women on the behind are not the best that Anchorman can do. Neither are Will Ferrell asking Fred Willard “What’s a lead?”, Will Ferrell being inconsiderately mean to a sad divorced guy, or Will Ferrell saying “Scotchy, scotch, scotch, I love scotch” unwittingly over the open air of broadcast television while his audience watches in horror.
Because none of those things are in the actual film.
None of them.
They all make me want to self-mutilate, and every single one of them is a thousand times funnier than anything that’s actually in the actual film of Anchorman. I can’t remember a single piece of movie advertising that’s more deceptive, more outrageously, deliberately misleading than the teaser trailer for Anchorman, at least 80 percent of the content of which appears nowhere in the film. The regular trailer is somewhat less egregious, with perhaps only 50 percent of its content absent from the film.
It’s true that scenes that appears in trailers — which are often prepared far ahead of the completion of the films themselves — might sometimes get cut from the final versions of those films. But that’s not what’s happening here. What’s happening here is a blatant attempt to trick you into coughing up your ten bucks for something you otherwise would not cough up ten bucks for. The only other explanation is that the people involved in creating the godawful mess that the movie is had absolutely no idea what the hell they were doing, way down on a basic storytelling level. Cuz you don’t have to cut all of your “best” material from a story if you know what story you’re telling in the first place. (This explanation does not account for the fact that those deceptive trailers are prominently featured on the Anchorman official site; if there was no intention to deceive, they’d have cut a new trailer that more accurately reflects the film.)
I would have no trouble whatsoever believing that director Adam McKay and Ferrell (Starsky & Hutch, Elf), who cowrote the script, have absolutely no idea what the hell they were doing. I’d have thought, from those trailers, that Anchorman might be a reasonably cohesive satire — a poor one, a stupid one, but a cohesive one. But now I think it’s only evidence of the literally sketchy Saturday Night Live roots of this embarrassment of a movie (McKay is a behind-the-scenes vet of SNL; Ferrell, of course, contributed in front of the camera to SNL‘s decline), as well as a demonstration of a new low in the genre of the SNL movie. Bad SNL movies — which are most of them — are like a single three-minute sketch dragged out over an eternity. But Anchorman doesn’t even bother to be a single sketch — it’s a series of barely connected sketches. And not good sketches, either, but instead the kind of sketches that come on after the second performance by the musical guest, when you can’t believe you’re still watching. And these very bad, barely congealed sketches aren’t strung together in any way, just piled on top of one another disjointedly. Anchorman is ninety endless minutes of some of the most stunningly incompetent filmmaking I’ve ever seen. McKay and Ferrell are so stunningly incompetent, in fact, that they couldn’t even figure a way to throw in those uncongealed “funny” trailer scenes into the disjointed mix. That requires a really special kind of stupid.
It’s hardly even worth complaining, then, that Anchorman uses its faux satire of the 1970s as an excuse to play out male fantasies of knocking uppity women — like aspiring anchorwoman Christina Applegate (View from the Top, The Sweetest Thing) — back down into their proper place; as with the new Stepford Wives, Anchorman pretends to send up passé attitudes while actually expressing very contemporary fears. It’s hardly worth complaining about the astounding new depths of toilet humor the film plumbs. It’s hardly worth noting that the legendary Ron Burgundy is borderline retarded, isn’t he? and that the only reason for another character (played by Steve Carell: Sleepover, Bruce Almighty) to actually be labeled mentally retarded is to throw the scent off Burgundy, right? It’s hardly worth pointing out that the yuckiest animated metaphorical sex scene ever is smack in the middle of this disaster. It’s hardly worth saying that I’ve seen better acting in locally produced TV ads for car dealerships that run on cable in the middle of the night.
It’s hardly even worth talking about any of those things, because Anchorman is not a movie at all. It’s a placeholder, something to put up on the screen to delude you, hopefully, into believing you’ve gotten what you’ve paid for, what you were promised. What you didn’t get.
rated PG-13 for sexual humor, language and comic violence
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers