The film opens with the line, “The following is based on actual events. Only the names, locations, and events have been changed.” It’s set in a time, before cable, when local anchormen reigned supreme and when people believed everything they saw on TV. In San Diego, anchorman Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is the best of the best, attracting all the key demographics, the highest ratings, and plenty of female attention – despite being incredibly stupid. He sports an influential mustache, a powerfully soothing voice, the finest suits, and the popular catchphrase, “You stay classy, San Diego.” His Channel 4 News team consists of weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), the polite and potentially mentally retarded one, Champ Kind (David Koechner), the sportscaster who likes to have a few cocktails to liven things up, and Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), the ladies’ man field reporter.
Ed Harken (Fred Willard), the head of KVWN, informs the crew that while Ling Wong, a pregnant panda, is the big story of the summer, the station has hired a new reporter – Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). No one is accustomed to having a strong female presence around, least of all in the newsroom. The men are equally infuriated and aroused; each one tries to woo the blonde newcomer with zero success, save for Burgundy, who gets her to agree to a welcoming tour of the city. His many attempts to impress her eventually wear down her rightful defenses (highlighted by a hilarious jazz flute session). But her dreams of becoming a network anchor might be in jeopardy if their coworkers find out about their relationship, especially considering that Harken continues to give her negligible leads to keep her out of the real news. When Ron is absent for one of his 6 o’clock broadcasts, Veronica steps in and is immediately positively received by viewers. She’s promoted to be the first female co-anchor in history, which aggravates Ron to the point that the two become vicious enemies on and off the set.
“Anchorman” is unbelievably silly, attempting to continually outdo itself with more and more nonsensical jokes, gags, and slapstick. As one of Judd Apatow’s earlier feature productions, “Anchorman” is unusually devoid of the raunchiness and foul language his later movies capitalized on. Instead, he utilizes strings of random absurdities, including group singing, subtitles for animals communicating with one another, failure to interpret common expressions, an animated trip to “Pleasure Town“ (which is a visualized metaphor for sex), the use of a rare “Sex Panther” musk (illegal in nine countries), and a complexly choreographed street gang fight consisting of the KQHS rival evening news team (lead by an uncredited Vince Vaughn as Wes Mantooth) and several other groups (also boasting cameos such as Ben Stiller, Tim Robbins, and Luke Wilson).
“Mr. Burgundy, you’re acting like a baby!” exclaims Veronica. It’s an absolutely true statement, with nearly every character alternately behaving like an obnoxious child, ranting and raving and sputtering balderdash, or engaging in tantrum-like physical violence. Burgundy was one of the first of Ferrell’s oddball characters thrust into a historical time and place, sport, or lesser known niche, begging to be parodied. It’s also one of his most notable, relying on spontaneous ridiculousness and goofy dialogue to entice audiences, co-written by Ferrell himself; and it was met with enough success that it birthed the very notion of a “Will Ferrell movie,” along with a long-awaited sequel set for 2013. The blooper reel at the end credits proves that this group must have had a grand time making the film – perhaps more than viewers will have watching the finished product.
- The Massie Twins