On Screen

'Anchorman' Steals the Show

By Desson Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 9, 2004

"ANCHORMAN: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" is wonderfully silly all the time. You may not laugh as hard as you want to, but the movie's premise has irresistible mileage: Will Ferrell as a '70s telegenic newsman-stud.

Well, stud in his own mind.

His name is Ron Burgundy. He's the lead anchor for San Diego's Channel 4 news and he rules the local ratings. He's a little tubby around the middle. Likes turtleneck sweaters and tight white pants. Sports the big-hair-and-mustache combination straight from the era of Mark Spitz, Burt Reynolds and old-time porn flicks. And he struts around with the blissfully misinformed idea that women just love it when you rub up against them and describe their desirability in hunting terms. Oh, man, do they get turned on when you treat 'em like prey!

Ron's a prisoner of his times, encouraged by his trio of moronic colleagues, sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), news reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), who are always looking for a party, which means women. And Ron's world gets a rough shakedown when the talented, ambitious Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), who possesses actual journalistic skills (as opposed to the ability to read from a teleprompter), gets hired as his assistant anchor. Ron's whole career and belief system are about to be shaken to their roots. And being the ladies man he is, he can't help falling madly in love with her.

"Breathtaking heinie," says Ron when he first meets Veronica, at that point not realizing she's a news journalist and about to be his professional competitor. "I want to be friends with it."

Amazingly, and here's where the story gets too silly, even by its own standards, Veronica finds herself attracted to Ron. (He never has to really earn her love.) A first date becomes instant love and affection. And the smitten Ron can't help announcing his conquest on the evening news. This upsets Veronica but not as much as Ron's complete lack of faith in her abilities. When push comes to shove, he doesn't believe in her.

Written by Ferrell and director Andy McKay (a former "Saturday Night Live" writer), "Anchorman," which has amusing turns from Applegate, as well as Vince Vaughn as one of Ron's on-air anchor rivals, is more goofy than inspired. It rests largely on the likable funniness of Ferrell and his bag of unexpected tricks. On that first date with Veronica, for instance, he whips out a flute and leads a jazz combo with wild inspiration. (Just happened to have the flute in his inside jacket pocket.) And when Ron is forced to leave the station, apparently banished for the rest of his professional life, he makes a desperate call to his buddy Brian from an enclosed telephone booth.

"Where are you?" Brian asks.

"I'm in a glass case of emotion!" wails Ron.

The movie (which includes one dog-kicking scene guaranteed to lightly goose the PETA crowd) closes with the long-cliched tradition of showing "hilarious" outtakes from the movie during the closing credits. Don't worry: You won't have to linger for them. But "Anchorman" does leave you with a strong asset: Ferrell is a charming character you want to see again. Ron is funnier and more appealing than the story he's in. And in a strange way, the movie sets itself up (à la "Austin Powers") with the possibility of a sequel that could outdo the original. There's a future in all this. Maybe.

ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY (PG-13, 91 minutes) -- Contains cartoonish violence to an animal, some obscenity, sexual situations and banter, and (brace yourselves) an entire rendition of "Afternoon Delight." Area theaters.

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