Anchorman (3/10)

Copyright © 2004 by Tony Medley

Ah, this movie raises an existential question that could drive people like Camus and Satre wild. Is a movie born bad, or does society make it so? Or, to put it another way, is a movie bad because my expectations are much higher than the reality, or is it bad because itís just bad?

The given is that Anchorman is bad. But I went into it with high expectations. People in the audience were laughing occasionally. I heard someone exiting the theater say, ďThat was really great!Ē I wasnít sure if it was someone auditioning for a Direct TV commercial or not, because one thing is for certain, regardless of your expectations, this movie is not ďgreat.Ē So is it bad because I expected too much, or is it just bad?

Anchorman was written by NBCís Saturday Night Live mainstays Will Farrell and Adam McKay, who makes his feature film directorial debut. McKay didnít make the cut when he auditioned for SNL in 1994 as a performer, but he was hired as a writer and promoted to Head Writer in 1995. Over the next five years he participated in over 600 sketches. SNL has a reputation for being funny. I find its humor to be usually low class, gross, and unfunny. Because of the plethora of skits it throws out each week, a few are so funny they sometimes become classic. But the sad fact is that the majority of SNLís skits are clumsy, low intellect bombs. Anchormanís SNL derivation shows in the vulgar, crotch-oriented, tasteless attempts at humor it thrusts upon us.

Ron Burgundy (Farrell) is an egotistical, intellectual lightweight news anchor at a San Diego TV station in the 1970ís, Channel 4.  Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) is a smart, ambitious beautiful woman who yearns to break into the all-male world of TV anchoring. Ed Harken (Fred Willard) is Channel 4ís News Director.

Right off the bat the film doesnít work. Even though sheís smart and ambitious and heís a lightweight jerk, she falls for him and gets involved in an affair. This gets about a zero on the credibility meter.

The film is basically without a premise, merely a series of skits that even Lorne Michaels might have rejected for SNL. Thereís one where Burgundy plays the flute that is too absurd to be funny. In another thatís so crass itís insulting, Burgundy gets physically excited by Veronica and it shows through his pants.

Burgundyís news crew is a bunch of unlikable nincompoops. There is a Gunfight at the OK Corral type faceoff with the other news crews in town (which is where we meet Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jack Black, and Tim Robbins in ludicrous cameos. In fact, these guys are appearing in so many movies they might soon be known as the Cameo Kings; as far as Iím concerned they not only do not contribute anything, they detract from a film that is already unappealing.). As with just about everything else in this movie, what could have been clever is so over the top itís just moronic.

As if Farrell and McKay havenít done enough to convince us that they are philistines, they compound the felony by throwing in an anti-President Bush line at the end. Regardless of your political views, how obtusely insensitive do you have to be to gratuitously offend half of your potential audience?

Whatís sad is that this could have been a good idea, a parody on golden-tongued, empty-headed news anchors who build huge popularity out of the simple expedient of reading the news off a teleprompter. Why in the world are these people stars? Alas, this film misses a golden opportunity by crossing the line that separates parody from stupidity.

July 6, 2004

The End