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Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

March 24, 2011

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
Director: Adam McKay
Actors: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd

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Synopsis: Alpha-male newscaster Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) has his nose put out of joint when an attractive female newscaster (Christina Applegate) joins his show.

Review: I must confess to having mixed feelings about Anchorman – the movie widely considered to be the apex of the Fratpack movement. Sure, it has moments that are extremely funny, it runs along with a real anarchic verve, and the idea of creating a rampant satire of US newsroom tropes is a good one. That said – and admittedly comedy does often come down to a simple matter of personal taste – there are one or two elements I’m less taken in by. One is betrayed by the term “Fratpack” itself, in that I find a lot of the comedy of Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell, Jack Black et al to be very ‘loud’, brash and self-congratulatory. Maybe it’s because I’m British, but my preferred form of comedy revolves around reticence, subtlety, and denying the audience the pleasure of a simple punchline. Much of Anchorman however (even though I accept it’s characterising machismo) is too smugly full of its own comic value and sells its gags to the viewer a little too pleadingly.

And moving on to the central satire itself – ostensibly of the rampant chauvinism and misogyny in the newsroom workplace – I’m always a little suspicious of affluent, middle-class, white comics creating these characters with grotesque racial and/or sexist prejudices. The comics and filmmakers are obviously intelligent enough to defend these jokes as part of a liberal exposé of intolerance (much like Sacha Baron Cohen did with Borat), but something tells me that the sheer quantity of gags at the film’s disposal, and the knowledge that the audience will be laughing as much with the characters than at them, makes me feel a touch queasy about the moral highground the comics seek to stake with this sort of material. (March 2011)

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