Should we point a finger of blame to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy for the state of news reporting currently? Perhaps. Ron Burgundy is not a man you or I could call “professional”, or “competent”, but he sure loves his job. Why that is? No idea. Some deep-rooted kink for facilitating power through the airwaves of the gullible, a fascistic need and desire to clutch to power, his jagged fingernails digging in ever deeper to the rotund beauty of fame and fortune. To suggest any of these themes would be realistic would be, well, Mort Crim would have stern words with nonbelievers.
Suave, egotistical and morbidly hilarious, Ron Burgundy, played by somewhat funnyman Will Ferrell, is an exceptional leading character. Full of pithy gusto, Burgundy is a character that performs as both a vehicle we can mock, but one we can show some level of fondness for. His outdated mode of interaction, his shoddy hairstyle and his garish suits are all a sign of the times, the product of who he is. The times change and conform to reality around him, but he soon becomes a relic of his own creation. Adam McKay, surprisingly, shows this rather well through some relatively simple but exceptionally well-crafted direction. Understanding that framing and cuts are the real key to big-budget comedy, he allows creative leniency with a cast of stalwart comedians.
As expected, though, the greater jokes are few and far between. More than a handful of low-brow poop jokes, following the traditional three-act structure as best it can. Enough room for comedy, but the few surprising jokes that linger on the edges of quality never follow through with a strong enough punchline. Burgundy’s spiral is a weak and predictable moment that serves its purpose, but does nothing more than that. Some of the other narratives blur rather poorly, his reliance on the news team and his friends is never highlighted as something more than a frivolous ploy to keep him at the top of the food chain. They serve Burgundy, as we all do, and the equilibrium we return to is identical to the one found at the beginning, only with an extra character added in for good measure.
My soft spot and nostalgia for comedies of this era help tremendously, but the surprising tones of maturity underlying the somewhat true story is oddly well handled. Filmed like one elongated manic meltdown, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy has in itself become a legend. Capturing the 70s style and suits, the film relies on memorable dialogue that has found itself so cocooned in popular culture that it loses a fair deal of its impact. Still, hearing those pristine bits of brilliance from the horse’s mouth is a sight to behold, in among the bear fights, heroic cameos and the fascinatingly silly moments of reality-bending nonsense. A mountain of fun, a truly interesting piece for the sub-genre that dominated half a decade of life. Mort Crim would be proud. Probably.