Anchorman: The "Rich Mahogany" Edition Review

Whether or not you bought a ticket when it was in theaters or ever popped it into your DVD player, odds are good that you’ve seen Anchorman. You've at least experienced it in the way that so many of us have unwittingly relived it through a combination of having it quoted back to us by friends and Facebook walls and watching subsequent films in which Ron Burgundy’s guiding hand is clear (which is almost exactly the same experience as watching it). While it could never be said that Anchorman is without laughs (largely due to Will Ferrell, in probably his most improvisatory performance), the past six years haven’t served it well, with most of its edge having been dulled by years of imitation. For the most part, this isn’t the movie’s fault, but it does serve to remind us just what a nexus point for humor that this movie created, and how basic its innovations were that it now seems so familiar.

Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) is a local news anchor, and the most popular man in mid-70s San Diego. Along with Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Champ Kind (David Koechner), and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), he takes full advantage of the brief period of time after the free love of the 60s had set in but before white guys really had to accept any responsibility for it. That’s all set to change, however, when female news anchor Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) shows up, with goals and aspirations (and talent) similar to Ron’s. Despite the fact that they are mutually attracted to one another, it becomes clear all too quickly that an era is coming to an end, and that only one of them will be able to sit at the front desk. But all of that makes it sound like there’s more of a backbone here than there actually is, as pretty much all of this serves as little more than a springboard for Ferrell and his costars to wander into ridiculous set-pieces (personal favorite: the street gang battles with a rival news team led by Wes Mantooth, played by Vince Vaughn).

It might be impossible to do the idea justice, but it’d very interesting to see a history of what people have found funny at different periods in history, and in different places. Though there’s the general overlap of slapstick, mothers-in-law, and people with different customs than you, there are a host of subtleties that are rarely discussed, and innately linked to the cultures in which they originate. The makers of Anchorman must have been highly attuned to this, because they managed to provide the  missing link between two previously distinct forms of comedy: the ‘guy’ joke and the non sequitur. Guys have been making jokes (mostly about women and penises) ever since the invention of standing around and chilling, but ridiculous humor that gets laughs simply because it makes little to no sense is a little more recent (probably finding its voice with Monty Python). Though both were finding their way comfortably into the 21st century with Maxim-reading douchebag culture and the hipster non-joke (where something weird is said, and because there’s silence afterwards it’s supposed to be funny), respectively. But it was rare that the two really mixed before Ron Burgundy’s distinctive phrasing of his love of breasts, daytime lovemaking, and other such things. Though this clearly potent combinvation has certainly had an impact on film (Anchorman solidified the film careers of Ferrell, Carell, and producer Judd Apatow), this particular phenomenon has had probably more influence over internet comedy, where twenty something guys have vied with each other for page views on their videos.

Why, you might ask, is this a bad thing? Because there’s another culture that Anchorman helped to create, and that’s ‘quote’ culture. Really, ‘quote’ is almost too kind of a word to describe it, because it implies that it’s something more sophisticated than just repeating something you just saw in the way that a talking animal might, and it’s not. It’s a tough call between this and Pulp Fiction, but I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a movie quoted with frequency that this is (this might have the edge, just because it came out the same year that Facebook did), and it was clearly designed to be that way: portable and quickly memorable. Rather than encourage humor, quoting effectively kills it, and ensures that anything you once found funny about it becomes as grating as the sound of crows caught in a dishwasher. Watching Anchorman six years later, it’s hard not to feel as if this was done on purpose, as scenes frequently play as if actors are competing with one another to say the funniest thing. The actors are funny enough to make it work, but now it feels as if they’re quoting another movie the whole time: the first time you saw Anchorman.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

A second disc also features Wake Up, Ron Burgundy, an entire feature length film that was cobbled together from excised footage. In terms of storyline, it’s pretty much the same film, except that now it involves a confrontation with a subversive group (with Kevin Corrigan, Maya Rudolph, and Chuck D) clearly modeled on the Symbionese Liberation Army. Those of you familiar with the film will be able to pick out several set-pieces shared with the theatrical film, but it’s still amazing that they were able to put something like this together at all, and a testament to just how improvisational and loose the making of this film must have been.

But even that pales in comparison to amount of other bonus features that this disc has to offer, collecting nearly every spare piece of footage and piece of advertising related to the production and the promotion of the film. There are a huge number of deleted takes, the “awards show scene”, Ron Burgundy PSAs, interviews with celebrities, footage from rehearsals (including the “Afternoon Deight” recording session) and auditions, trailers and tv spots, a number of television specials that played on cable, and some out-takes from shooting. This limited edition also contains 12 trading cards and a 'copy' of Ron Burgindy's diary. Frankly, if there’s anything else that you would want to see related to this film, I can’t imagine what it would be.

"Anchorman: The "Rich Mahogany" Edition" is on sale September 7, 2010 and is rated PG13. Comedy. Directed by Adam McKay. Written by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay. Starring Christina Applegate, David Koechner, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Will Ferrell.

Anders Nelson • Associate Editor


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