For reasons beyond my humble powers of comprehension, Will Ferrell's 2004 comedy "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" seems to be growing in cult status with each passing year. By 2024, it may be classified alongside Welles's "Citizen Kane" and Renoir's "The Rules of the Game" as one of the great film classics of our time. Or at least that's the impression a person gets from this new, fully packed, two-disc, high-definition Blu-ray "Rich Mahogany" Edition of the movie, available exclusively at Best Buy stores.
After his success in "Old School" (2003), Ferrell continued his series of goofy characters in "Anchorman," which he not only starred in but co-wrote. This, in turn, led to more goofball roles in "The Producers," "Talladega Nights," "Blades of Glory," "Step Brothers," and "The Other Guys," interspersed with occasional warmhearted characters in "Elf" and, his best film to date, "Stranger Than Fiction." But Ferrell knows that it's the outlandish caricatures that pay the bills, so we may see more "Anchorman" kind of roles from him in his future. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, in "Anchorman" Ferrell plays a throwback to the male chauvinism of an earlier era with his variation on the Ted Baxter TV news anchor. You remember Ted Baxter, played by Ted Knight, from the old "Mary Tyler Moore Show." Baxter looked the part of a dignified elder statesman, with a mane of silver hair, a mellifluous voice, and a brain the consistency of a jelly doughnut. Ferrell not only plays the same sort of character in Ron Burgundy, the movie even pays tribute to the older show by naming Burgundy's dog "Baxter."
The movie's preface sets the tongue-in-cheek tone: "The following is based on actual events. Only the names, locations, and events have been changed."
The place is San Diego, California, and the time is the 1970s, when, as the familiar-voiced narrator, Bill Kurtis, tells us, in "a time before cable, the local anchorman reigned supreme, when people believed everything they heard on TV." In this field Ron Burgundy is a legend, a supreme egotist, and complete blockhead. But everybody in town loves him, and his television station is number-one in the ratings.
The movie's hijinks are actually close to the truth. Although attractive talking heads still dominate TV news, in the 1970s and before, there were few or no women involved. At Burgundy's station, he is the anchor of an all-male news team of idiots: Brian Fontana (Paul Rudd) is the reporter in the field; he's so manly he keeps a wall of cologne in his office. Champ Kind (David Koechner) is the sports reporter; he's a loudmouthed macho imbecile. And Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) is the nerdy weatherman; he admits to being mentally challenged. All four of them are male chauvinists to the hilt, and it doesn't help that the program's producer, Ed Harken (Fred Willard), is equally against female broadcasters on the show.
What little plot there is involves a woman trying to insinuate herself into this clubby male society. She's Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), a reporter the network wants working at the station because of complaints about "a lack of diversity." The word "diversity" confuses most of the male staff, and Veronica is determined to get ahead in a man's world.
Naturally, the male news team resents her, while at the same time they all try to pick her up. She'll have none of it, until she unaccountably falls for Burgundy. And that's about the extent of the story line. What the screenwriters could have developed into a more pointed satire is mostly a series of gags involving the male pigs slobbering over themselves and acting like children whenever Veronica appears, Burgundy's sudden urge to fall in love, and the continued foolishness of the news team.
There are a couple of laugh-out-loud moments, however, and a few assorted smiles, which is better than most comedies provide these days. Willard has the funniest bits in telephone calls to his son's school; Ferrell has a silly piece of business with an embarrassing erection at the office; the team does a delightful harmony on "Afternoon Delight"; and Carell is so amusingly off-the-wall, he could have had the starring role.
Then there are some humorous cameos that liven things up: Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller, and Tim Robbins show up as rival news anchors from various TV stations, and an all-out gang fight among the competing news teams is a kick ("No touching the hands or face"). The always entertaining Danny Trejo makes an appearance as a bartender. And Jack Black enters the picture as an outraged motorcyclist.
Adam McKay directed the film in much the same way he would have directed segments of "Saturday Night Live," his old stomping ground. Later, McKay would do "Talladega Nights," "Step Brothers," and "The Other Guys" with Ferrell. Which brings up the star, who is pure Ferrell in this one.
Most of the comedy is rather obvious--silly and corny--yet it's often so dumb it's intermittently funny. I just wish there had been more plot to go along with the nutty caricatures. Either that, or maybe the movie, even in its unrated form, could have been more outrageous. It isn't.
The high-definition, Blu-ray picture looks a little soft in spots, but then there are other compensating moments when it looks exceptionally well defined. The video engineers maintain the movie's original screen size of 1.85:1 (or 1.78:1 since it fills out a 16x9 widescreen television), and they use an MPEG-4 codec in transferring the movie to a dual-layer BD50. Colors are excellent, quite natural, especially flesh tones, and the screen is reasonably free of grain or noise except that which is inherent to the print. In short, the video is fine; if it doesn't always pop off the screen at you in high-def, that's probably the way it originally appeared. Let's just say it's extremely realistic.
Like the video, the disc's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound comes across as laid back and relaxed. It doesn't have much to do, so it doesn't do much. Still, it's very clean, with excellent midrange clarity, and that's about it. The rear channels come to life maybe one or two times during the entire movie; otherwise, we get a pleasant ambient bloom on the musical track. Since the only job the audio has to do is convey dialogue clearly (and a little background music), you can't expect a "Transformers" type response. The nature of the soundtrack understandably limits the dynamic range and bass response, as well as the surround effects.
Disc one of this fully loaded, two-disc "Rich Mahogany" Edition contains the rated (PG-13, ninety-four minute) and unrated (ninety-seven minute) versions of the movie, both in high definition; twenty scene selections; bookmarks; English, French, and Spanish spoken languages and subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.
In addition, disc one contains an audio commentary by star Will Ferrell, director Adam McKay, and an assortment of other people including Andy Richter, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, and even Kyle Gass and jazzman Lou Rawls, the latter pulled in to comment on Ferrell's flute tootling in the film. Following that, we get a series of thirty-six deleted and extended scenes that you can play individually or all at once for a whopping fifty-four minutes; then, about seven minutes of bloopers; the cast members doing a music video, "Afternoon Delight"; and, finally, Ron Burgundy's ESPN audition, about two minutes, again with Ferrell in character.
Disc two, also a BD50, contains the rest of the bonus items, and it's quite a bit, the main thing being the direct-to-video movie "Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie," ninety-three minutes in high def. Supposedly, the filmmakers made it up entirely of deleted scenes, but it appears that the filmmakers may have also added some footage specific to the new film. The film contains sixteen scenes, with English as the only spoken language but English French, and Spanish subtitles, and English captions for the hearing impaired. There are some cute bit in the film, despite its being mainly alternate takes and alternate scenes, and it includes a whole new subplot or two, plus roles for Justin Long and Amy Poehler that eventually got cut. In addition, we get an introduction to and commentary on the film with Ferrell and third-credited executive producer Aaron Zimmerman, whom Ferrell says he's never met in his life. It's as funny as the movie, with Zimmerman apparently played by the director. Or somebody (they keep it in character the whole time). Unfortunately, the commentary only lasts about twelve minutes.
Next, we five public service announcements; a three-minute speech with Burgundy accepting a 1970 Emmy; twenty-seven segments of "Raw footage: Good Takes," totaling about thirty-nine minutes; a portion of the "Afternoon Delight" recording session; a "Happy Birthday AMC-Loews" segment with Burgundy; about ten minutes of interviews by Burgundy of Rebecca Stamos, Jim Caviezel, and Burt Reynolds; and three specials: "Cinemax: The Making of Anchorman," about nine minutes; "Comedy Central Reel Comedy: Anchorman," about eight minutes; and "A Conversation with Ron Burgundy," about ten minutes with Bill Kurtis, probably the cutest segment in the set.
Things wind down with table reads of six scenes, filmed in 6/02/03; nine minutes of rehearsals; two minutes of commercial breaks, on-set silliness; and a teaser trailer, a theatrical trailer, and a TV spot.
The extras conclude with a special package that contains a booklet of Ron Burgundy's notes and appointments and a packet of Ron Burgundy trading cards. It's all very silly, but for the "Anchorman" fan, it probably works perfectly.
"Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" has a talented cast of comedic actors, so some of the film has to work in spite of itself. It's just that a lot of the movie is overly sophomoric, clownish, and redundant to be truly classic. It's more like a "Saturday Night Live" skit that got out of hand, a good idea that kept going and going but never quite jelled into a story. Still, there are bits and pieces that undoubtedly remain in memory, and for those moments alone, one has to admire the effort.