Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy is like a gregarious, gangly puppy. It runs around a lot insistently wanting to play and occasionally doing something that you find amusing. More often than not though, something amusing is followed up by an equally unamusing accident on the rug.
Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is the number one local news anchor in 1970s San Diego. With the Women’s Lib movement not quite on the horizon yet, Burgundy and the members of news team- field reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), sports reporter Champ Kind (David Koechner) and weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell)- all enjoy a rather care-free boy’s club of a news room where they are free to put the make on pretty secretaries and drink scotch right up to before air time. Into this frat house environment strides Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), an ambitious reporter with an eye on Burgundy’s anchorman’s chair. Although resistant to the idea of female joining the news team, Burgundy has no qualms about putting the romantic moves on Veronica and the two are soon an item. However, after Burgundy has a run in with a biker that makes him late for a broadcast, Veronica takes the anchor position, wowing her bosses, who promote her to co-anchor. Needless to say, Burgundy is incensed; the two break up and begin a power struggle for control of the nightly news.
It seems that director (and co-screenwriter with Ferrell) Adam McKay allowed a lot of improvisation on the set. The credits contain many outtakes utilizing different punch lines for scenes. Yet the film’s jokes are scattershot at best, some hitting their mark, others not. It’s not for lack of comic ideas, though. The film has a few gems including a running gag about gang style turf wars between competing stations’ news teams that ultimately escalate into a Gangs Of New York style rumble between five stations’ news teams. But overall the film ambles along unevenly, running out of any steam it may have had just when it reaches a rather uninspiring climax.
What’s disappointing is that there’s an enormous amount of talent on screen, but not all involved are in top form here. Ferrell’s Burgundy is an interesting idea for a character. Dense, vain, at times boorish and just a bit clueless, Burgundy makes Ted Baxter (from the old Mary Tyler Moore Show television series) seem positively well adjusted and Farrell definitely gives it his all to sell the character to audiences. Yet sometimes his all is too much, leaving him over playing many scenes, burying the comedy under hyper-histrionics at times. Farrell and McKay could well learn from the words of Groucho Marx- “Humor isn’t so much what you do as what you don’t do.”
The rest of the cast does well with what little material they are provided with, though there’s not much. The only major discernable difference between Rudd’s and Koechner’s characters is that Rudd sports a cheesy mustache and sideburns while Koechner sports gallon hat and a Texas accent. Steve Carell deserves special attention for his strong supporting work as the wide-eyed weatherman Brick Tamland. He takes what is essentially a one-note character and makes the most of it. Virtually every line delivered is gold but Carell never upstages his co-stars.