Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy  (2004) and

Anchorman: Wake Up, Ron Burgundy (2004)

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is a Will Ferrell comedy about a pompous, preening, male chauvinist who is a top rated local newscaster in the 1970s, He feels challenged and bewildered when his station brings in a competent female co-anchor.

Although Anchorman was highly touted as Ferrell's final step to superstardom, the film didn't turn out to be quite the comic masterpiece many expected. The promotional campaign promised a rich treasure of material to be mined from the pop culture of the 70s, but that didn't really materialize. The film dressed everyone up in bright polyesters and gave all the men outrageous facial hair and smirking misogynistic swaggers ... and then stopped the satire short of knockout blows, as if to say "OK, we've mocked the 70s a little, now let's just do all of our stock SNL routines." It's basically series of Saturday Night Live sketches loosely tied to the rivalry between the two anchors. To make matters somewhat worse, the material was not tightly scripted, and the improv material is hit and miss. There's a lot of "miss" - not because it isn't funny, but because it is predictable. Comics have a only certain number of devices they can fall back on for improv. Ferrell has been in the public eye for many years, and we in that public have seen and heard his best improv bits before, so Anchorman seemed like a "fill in the blanks" approach - like a party group doing Will Ferrell Mad Libs. To make matters very bad indeed, Ferrell has a comic Achilles heel that was not protected in this film. He's a funny guy, but he never knows when the joke is over and it's time to move on. When he's working with a tight script, he can deliver solid laughs within the words and character he's been given, but when he's allowed to roam completely free, he often misses by going too broad, and even his hits tend to drag on too long.

Every once in a while the film breaks loose with some genuine inspiration, but most of it just consists of predictable, dependable sitcom laughs with no strong unifying concept, and the premise (pompous, chowderhead 70s anchorman) was already milked to death by Ted Baxter on the Mary Tyler Moore show. (Anchorman gives a tip o' the hat to MTM in the name of Burgundy's smarter-than-him doggie, Baxter.)

Mind you, dependable laughs are not such a bad thing. It may be formulaic humor, but "dependable" is a decent substitute when "inspired" isn't available. Anchorman is generally a pleasant way to pass the time.


I have to warn readers from outside the States that you may not like this film at all. There was a major difference of opinion between American and foreign critics on this film. Roger Ebert and James Berardinelli both found it amusing and awarded three stars, and the film scores an average critical score of 64 at Metacritic, which is outstanding for a lowbrow comedy, but the British critics generally despised it, awarding an average of one and a half stars. I suppose there's a strong possibility that you non-Americans won't "get it." My speculation about this cultural divide is that the jokes are rooted too deep inside American pop culture, and because Americans can see that the outrageous characters are actually not very far from a reality we once knew, and that makes it funnier to us.



Anchorman: Wake Up, Ron Burgundy is not really a sequel, but a creative use of deleted material. When the first film was released, the director was sitting on two and a half hours of unused material. A lot of that extra footage had to do with the improv technique, in which actors try to do radically different versions of the scenes, and the rest of it can be attributed to a sub-plot which was completely deleted and replaced. What does one do with so much good material? Hell, why not cut it into another movie, and explain the plot of the new film with a lot of voice-overs. Some of the plot of the second film is downright confusing if you saw the first film, because the chronology is obviously cobbled together. Events that are supposed to take place after Burgundy and his co-anchor become lovers are obviously taking place before they were an item. Ultimately, none of that really matters. A foolish consistency, after all, is the hobgoblin of little minds, and nothing is more foolish than caring whether the plot makes sense in a lowbrow comedy that provides a lot of good laughs.

I'm pretty sure you will enjoy the second film if you liked the first one. I watched it with my youngest son, who is a huge Will Ferrell fan, and we both felt that the second film had some great moments that were excised from the theatrical release for reasons unrelated to their quality. Steve Carrell, as the timid, drooling , "retarded" weather man, delivers a brilliant comic turn when he suddenly snaps back into the dominant, brilliant military strategist he used to be, and takes charge of the team by barking a complicated series of commands, which the others all obey unquestioningly. Their only response when the mental midget suddenly turns into General Patton? Will Farrell calmly, portentously says, "looks like the Captain is back!" My son and I almost fell out of our chairs! That was a really funny idea that simply had to be cut because it was tied to the deleted sub-plot, which involved some terrorists. The comic riff worked, but the scene would have made no sense without the paramilitary counter terrorism required from the news team (!!). Another brilliant Ferrell line had to be cut from the first film because Christina Applegate smiled, and that was out of character at the moment, but the director wisely realized the line was too good to be lost forever, and placed it in the second film, warts and all.

I thought it was kind of fun to watch Christina struggle and almost succeed at keeping a straight face. It created that same sense of viewer involvement that the old Carol Burnett Show used to generate when Korman and Conway used to try to break each other up during the skits, making the audience feel like part of the team. If you enjoy that sort of material, there are also plenty of bloopers on the DVDs in which the cast really does break up. (Don't miss the scene with Will Ferrell knocking on the wrong door to expose a crime boss. Before discovering his mistake, he launches into an obscene tirade against a sweet elderly gentleman. This is the only time I've ever heard Ferrell use such raunchy language, and he delivers it all within the pompous Burgundy character. Funny stuff.)

All in all, the two disk set includes about five hours of madness, and is well worth owning if you're a comedy buff or a Ferrell fan. It may not be as cohesive a comedy concept as we hoped for, but it's still a lot of fun, and there's a lot of it in the two-disk set.



I mentioned earlier that there were two and a half hours of extra material. The second film is only about 90 minutes long, but the other 60 minutes are also on the DVD's, because each of the films has about thirty minutes of deleted scenes. In addition, both films include featurettes, bloopers and various promos that Ferrell recorded in character as Burgundy, including a 1979 ESPN audition and a funny interview with Rebecca Romijn.



  • Chad Everett shows his bum in "Wake Up, Ron Burgundy."

Chad Everett????

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus out of four stars: three stars. James Berardinelli 3/4, Roger Ebert 3/4.

  • British consensus out of four stars: one and a half stars. Mail 4/10, Telegraph 4/10, Independent 2/10, Guardian 5/10, Times 6/10, Express 4/10, BBC 3/5.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score The Legend of Ron Burgundy 6.5/10
  • IMDb summary. IMDb voters score Wake Up, Ron Burgundy 6.4/10
  • Box Office Mojo. The first Anchorman film was budgeted at a modest $26 million for production, but was heavily promoted, adding to the production budget another $40 million in distro/promo costs. It earned a good but not spectacular $86 million at the box office.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+. OK, it's not perfect, but it's five or six hours of Will Ferrell craziness on two disks. That's a good thing, and a good value.

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