Remember the old “Spanky and Our Gang” episodes where the boys wouldn’t let Darla into the treehouse? Imagine that plot set in the all-white-guys world of 1970’s television news, when there were only four stations to watch and “everyone believed what they saw on TV.”
Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) has got it all. He is the anchor of the top-rated news program in San Diego alongside his His best pals, sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), and reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd). They cover stories like a water-skiing squirrel and a pregnant panda. He gets to go to lots of swinging parties. And he has great hair. Life is just about perfect.
And then there comes that pesky word “diversity.” Ron learns that diversity is not a famous Civil War battleship but the reason that for the first time the news team will include a woman, the beautiful, talented, and very ambitious Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate).
There are a bunch of “no girls allowed” jokes and a bigger bunch of “weren’t the 1970’s a hoot” jokes, including a soundtrack of cheesy oldies and references to the importance of musk-fragrance cologne. The story runs out of steam and disintegrates into a bunch of uneven skits, not surprising as Ferrell and his co-scriptwriter, director Adam McKay come from “Saturday Night Live.” But there are moments of inspired looniness (a dog named Baxter has the funniest lines in the movie) and Ferrell the performer keeps hitting enough comic moments out of the park to keep it very watchable.
Most comedians, especially those gifted in physical comedy, have a show-offy “look at me!” quality that bespeaks years of practice in distracting and even disrupting whole classrooms filled with their earliest audiences. But what makes Ferrell so endearing is his complete and fearless absence of any ego. He has a complete absence of vanity in allowing himself to appear to be vain. He doesn’t throw himself into the character as much as hurl himself into it, utterly and completely. The result is magnificently funny. He laughs, cries, fights, falls in love, and sings so whole-heartedly that it is mesmerizing and hilarious at the same time.
It’s too bad that the script does to the talented Christina Applegate what the newsroom guys to do Victoria. She is primarily called upon to look as though she is trying to maintain her composure despite being surrounded by idiots. Carell is a stand-out as the dimmest of the news crew’s dim bulbs, and there are several guest appearances to help hold our interest.
Parents should know that the movie has extremely mature material for a PG-13, even for this “slob comedy” genre. Characters use very strong language and there are especially graphic sexual references and situations and crude humor. The movie has comic peril and violence. Characters drink and smoke a great deal and there is a reference to drug use. One character’s arms are hacked off and others are killed.
Families who see this movie should compare the opportunities and expectations for women in the era of the movie to today’s and talk about how much has changed and what still needs to change. How has the way we get our news changed since the 1970’s? What is better and what is worse?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Ferrell’s appearances in