Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Reviewed by Mike Clark
BIG 13 Webmaster

I refer to "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" as "Big 13, The Motion Picture," because it's set in a television station during the mid-seventies, a golden era of broadcasting before cable and the internet entered the picture and broke the monopoly of the networks, and hence affiliates, in local markets.  The similarity between "Anchorman" and BIG 13 ends there. 

"Anchorman" was released in 2004 and stars Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy, San Diego's #1 rated newsman.  Burgundy's a scotch-loving womanizer whose spot at the top of the ratings is threatened when beautiful, smart Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) joins the news team.

The story is the age-old battle of the sexes as "Anchorman's" male staff reacts like stuck pigs when women intrude in their newsroom turf.  It's a great concept for a movie and while "Anchorman" does generate some pretty good laughs, the comedy falls short in the execution due to a lack of reality in plotting and characterization.  That's not totally surprising for Will Ferrell vehicles...putting the laughs ahead of verisimilitude.  It's made Ferrell and his distributors tons of money over the years.

Blending the styles of "Best of Show,"  "Airplane," and "There's Something About Mary."  this lightweight romantic comedy written by Ferrell and Adam McKay chose to make Burgundy, Corningstone, and the people at the TV station caricatures.  The males are all 14-year-olds at heart without a trace of self-awareness.  Don't expect any depth of feeling when anchorman meets, loses, and gets co-anchor again at the end.

Part of problem is the backward plotting.  In the film's opening moments, feminist Corningstone falls hard for Burgundy after he wows her with his spiffy jazz flute set at a San Diego nightclub.  For a mid-70's career woman working in the shadow of the E.R.A., this happens waaaay too easy and too soon to Applegate's character,  robbing the picture of any romantic tension.  There's some funny scenes involving the way Veronica is tortured on and off-camera by her insecure co-workers, but they come a little late in the picture.   

Over-the-top scenes that veer from reality include a knock down, drag-out newsroom fight between Burgundy and Corningstone (ever been brained with one of those old, heavy I.B.M. Selectric typewriters?) and a "West Side Story" gang-fight between Burgundy's team and the news teams from San Diego's other TV stations.  Knives, spears, guns, and grenades are used in the free for all that includes cameos by Luke Wilson, Tim Robbins, and Ben Stiller.  Pet lovers should beware of a shocking, out-of-place scene where Burgundy's cute dog is booted off the Coronado bridge by an enraged biker (Jack Black).  It's an upsetting, unfunny moment that doesn't belong in the movie, even though the pooch returns later in the film to save Burgundy's life.  It took a few minutes for the audience I was with to recover and resume enjoying the film.

The mechanics of 1970's news production are glossed over, which is too bad since there is plenty of humor to be mined from the process (BIG 13 veterans can attest to that!).  There are some nice satiric touches involving the news program's opening as Burgundy's team swagger towards the camera with big, toothy grins.  Burgundy's news stories are pretty funny too, centering on pregnant pandas at the San Diego Zoo and water-skiing squirrels.  What doesn't wash is the use of "R" rated language on the air, which would have gotten Burgundy booted off the air long before he accidentally uses the "F" word as the result of TelePrompTer sabotage. 

In local markets of the time, most anchors were involved in reporting and writing their stories, but Burgundy's prep consists only of extensive makeup and extreme vocal exercises right down to air time.  ENG trucks and video camera equipment are in regular use in "Anchorman" despite the fact that many markets were still using 16mm newsfilm and just entering the era of live remotes.  Apparently, Burgundy's station can only afford one 3/4" U-matic VTR, and when Corningstone wants to use it Burgundy hogs the machine to review his local Emmy acceptance speech,  which leads to the previously mentioned sockfest.  Studio equipment was correctly portrayed by RCA TK-44 cameras, which is right for the time as were the leisure suits, leather vests, moustaches and sideburns sported by the cast. 

"Anchorman's" supporting cast is top notch, and you'll enjoy the antics of Burgundy's dimwitted weatherman ("I once ate asbestos…they told me it was cotton candy") portrayed by "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" Steve Carell.  Also on tap are a sports reporter from the deepest part of Texas, and a Geraldo Rivera-style investigative reporter trying in vain to unseat Corningstone.  Fred Willard is terrific as the station's news director.

I would like to see this same idea written and directed by the creator of "When Harry Met Sally," Nora Ephron.  Delaying the romance while giving the characters some reality and depth,  "Anchorman" could have addressed the issues of women in the workplace, male pride, broadcast news, and romance with greater comedic impact.  But "Anchorman" is a Will Ferrell picture, and apparently there's a glass ceiling in his repertoire for sophisticated comedy.

All said, if you like broadcasting (or you wouldn't be visiting BIG 13!) you'll find more than a few good laughs with "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy," which did excellent box office and is available on DVD.

Here's the official "Anchorman" web site:

All photos (C) 2004 DreamWorks