A film review by Craig J. Koban
THE LEGEND OF RON
2004, PG-13, 91 mins.
Ron Burgundy: Will Ferrell / Veronica Corningstone: Christina Applegate / Champ Kind: David Koechner / Brick Tamland: Steven Carell / Brian Fantana: Paul Rudd / Ed Harken: Fred Willard / Garth Holliday: Chris Parnell
Directed by Adam McKay / Written by Will Ferrell and McKay
I can’t think of one screen
character in recent memory that is as much of a serial egotist and arrogant,
self-congratulatory man that is Ron Burgundy.
He populates the world of the new period comedy ANCHORMAN
in a state of perpetual and wildly ignorant tunnel vision. He clearly has no real clue of what a sexist pig he is, nor
does he have any real bearing on how silly, moronic, mentally bankrupted, and
morally backwards he is capable of being. Ron
is a by-product of the pre-feminism, journalistic environment of the 1970’s, when
women were strictly forbidden in the newsroom and definitely, DEFINITELY, not
in the anchorman’s chair. As Ron,
in a painfully funny scene early in the film, screams out, “It's anchorman, NOT
Yup, Ron Burgundy is an original
comic creation, and he occupies a tremendously hilarious film.
The film is – ANCHORMAN:
THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY – and its name is about as narcissistic as its
male characters. Hell, it may be
about a completely sexist group of male anchors that need a slap upside their
heads, but it also is a film with a great sense of period and time, satire, and
wit. It is also the funniest film I
have seen this year…and I mean side-splittingly funny.
Ron Burgundy is the most popular
anchorman of San Diego’s Channel 4 evening news. The film is wisely set in the 1970’s for maximum satiric
effect. This was a time, as the
surprisingly funny voice over narration (by Bill Curtis) tells us, that was
before VCR’s and Cable TV, a time when people implicitly trusted their
respective anchors and took their respective words for absolute truth.
Yes, it was a clear period when network anchors were more renown for
their charisma and trustworthiness then true journalistic skills.
I mean, if you watched the evening news every single night with one man,
who else will tell you the news and, moreover, whom else could you trust?
If viewers could realize what a petty and cocky SOB Ron Burgundy is, then
maybe they’d tune out.
The film opens with a title card
that clearly establishes the correct comic tone of the film: This film "is
based on actual events. Only the names, locations, and events have been
changed." We are then
quickly introduced to the members of San Diego’s KVMN team. We have head anchor Ron (Will Ferrell) , sports reporter
Champ Kind (David Koechner), weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), and
on-the-spot reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd).
This team is the legendary number one team of the city, and if anyone is
more intertwined with his own legacy, its most surly Ron ("I
have many very important leather-bound books, and my apartment smells of rich
mahogany" and “come and see how good I look” Ferrell deadpans at a
party early in the film). Ron has a
real problem - he thinks he’s God’s gift to television news broadcasting, but
he’s really one of the dumbest men in San Diego, so dumb that he actually will
read, word for word, anything that is on the teleprompter. And I mean anything!
It's not all laughs and cheers for
Ron, though. Early in the film, a
crisis builds in the newsroom where Ron’s boss (the always underrated Fred
Willard) states in a meeting that the station wants more “diversity” on the
show. Ron, being the ultimate
ignoramus, says, “Isn’t diversity a sailing ship that was used in the Civil
War?” Well, the diversity that
his boss mentioned was hiring a (gasp) woman to the news team as
Burgundy’s co-anchor. The members
of the news team are in absolute shock (“I hear that periods attract bears!”
states the inept Brick Tamland). The
woman (Christina Applegate) emerges and a battle of the sexes ensues, with
Applegate emerging as an effective foil to Ron’s manic comic underpinnings.
is truly a consistent and
painfully hilarious film, and it works terrifically on its levels of satire and
over-the-top laughs. Think
with a huge hit of AIRPLANE!
and you’ll kind of get the idea. Setting
the film in the 70’s may seem like an uninspired choice, but its crucial to
the film’s comic success. Okay,
the film is ridiculously silly and dumb, but it also has kernels of real truth
beneath it. It has a good satiric
eye for the behind-the-scenes aspects of television journalism of its time, but
it also reflects how terribly difficult it was for a women to be treated
respectably in the then male
dominated world of TV news. In an
era of pig-headed male chauvinism, women had a real fight ahead of them, and
it’s especially not easy when you have the poster boy for chauvinism – Ron
Burgundy – to battle. Yes, the
film is completely farcical and maniac in its comedy, but there’s a bit of
a point here.
There are just so many inspired
scenes of comedy in this silly gem, almost too many to mention.
I especially liked an early scene when all the male anchors, trying to
unite themselves to battle against the new woman, sing out loud “Afternoon
Delight” in a show of solidarity. Another
funny scene involves Ron taking Applegate’s character out and talks about the
history of San Diego (“I believe it was founded by the Germans in 1904, and
San Diego is German for whale vagina” explains the innocuous and immortally
stupid Ron). Yet another comic high
point is when Ron takes Applegate to a jazz pub and engages in a rather
unorthodox display of “jazz fluting”. There
are also a huge amount of surprise cameos (none of which I would dare spoil for
you), but one scene in particular has Ron and his anchor posse having a huge
street fight with three other groups of competing anchors (the scene is a huge
shift in tone from the rest of the high jinks, but its so devilish and
over-the-top, its impossible not to be amused).
One of the funnier scenes involving a cameo occurs when Ron causes a
motorcycle rider to crash. What the
rider does as payback leads to the biggest (and most shocking) laugh of the
The cast of
surprising in how uniformly funny they all are. Paul Rudd (almost unrecognizable) has some great scenes,
especially one involving him trying to seduce Applegate with cologne that is
“only legal in 7 countries.” Applegate
also is funny, but in less obvious ways (she plays it straight to counteract the
stupidity of the other men). The
unsung comic hero of ANCHORMAN is Steve Carell who plays Brick, the weatherman with an IQ
of 40. Every moment he speaks
inspires huge laughs. Even Fred
Willard has a few small moments of hilarity while trying to deal with his son on
But make no mistake about it, Will
Ferrell OWNS this film. People
often credit “serious” actors who merge with their on-screen characters so
effortlessly in dramas. What about
Ferrell’s work here? He so becomes
Ron Burgundy and owns the role so completely, and he nails every nuance
perfectly. He plays the part
both broadly and quietly, demonstrating the difficult art of going for big,
outlandish laughs and generating chuckles by only the smallest of minor
comments. It’s quite an amazing
performance, because Ferrell really achieves a difficult task -
he makes a male chauvinist pig really quite likeable.
He is capable of saying the absolute stupidest things, but there’s kind
of an underlying warmth and sweetness to him.
One scene shows his sensitive and outlandish touch at the same time. After the apparent death of a “loved one”, he calls the
newsroom from a pay phone. This
scene is a masterstroke of comic timing and ferocity, simultaneously making the
audience laugh at him and feel sorry for him at the same time. I have not laughed so hard at another scene all year.
ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY is a wonderfully silly and farcical film, one that works consistently throughout its 90 minutes. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a funnier and sharper comedy all year. What it does and does so well is blend together sharp satire, funny characters, and a lot of broad humour. You may not like Ron for what he stands for, but its impossible not to like Ron himself. So much of the time he inspires so much laughter, it’s impossible not to be won over by him, and Ferrell does a masterful job here. He may be crude and threaten to punch Applegate “in the ovaries, right in the babymaker,” but he’s also a kind of warm-hearted chauvinist, especially when he comes home from a hard day’s work and talks to his small dog. “Look at you,” says Ron, “you’re so wise, like a miniature Buddha covered in hair.” I mean, it’s sure hard to hate the guy!