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Anchorman: Anchors away

Culture | Like so many contemporary comedies, Anchorman (rated PG-13) contains enough crude humor to keep it far from the "recommended" list

Issue: "UN's abuse of power," July 24, 2004

Go back 50 years or more, and it's easy to come up with a list of comedy classics worthy of recommendation -- Arsenic and Old Lace, Bringing Up Baby, Harvey, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Limit the selection to within the last 50 years, and that list becomes much tougher to fill out.

Anchorman (rated PG-13 for sexual humor, language, and comic violence) is one of the funnier films of the year. It won't appeal to all tastes by any means, but fans of Will Ferrell often laugh simply at the sight of his face, and we see a lot of his face, framed by a goofy '70s haircut, in Anchorman. Unhappily, like so many contemporary comedies, Anchorman contains enough crude humor to keep it far from the "recommended" list.

The film has some winning qualities, including Mr. Ferrell himself. There's an underlying (and endearing) sincerity to his usually dumb-as-nuts characters. (This combination worked perfectly in last year's Elf.) The film was co-written by Mr. Ferrell and director Adam McKay, and they've picked a great target for their satire: the world of 1970s news anchors.

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Ron Burgundy (Mr. Ferrell) is at the top of his game in the mid-level market of San Diego. He doesn't contribute much (or, really, anything) to the news, except soothing readings from the teleprompter. Burgundy's newsroom is a male's world, until driven newcomer Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) joins the team and vies for an anchor position.

Anchorman's writers wisely guessed that their audience wouldn't want much more plot than that. The plot is, after all, just a vehicle to set up some very funny sketch-level comedy, including a scene in which rival news teams meet in a street brawl. Funny stuff, but hampered by an inability to show the type of restraint that can make a classic.

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