Anchorman should be so much better than it actually is. It casts Will Ferrell alongside the likes of Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, to parody 70s-style misogyny in news broadcasting. It's produced by Judd Apatow. Maybe by the standards of 2004 this was better, but today, at least, this is bad. What could have been a hilarious ride of mocking sexism is a joyless mess of a film that is only occasionally funny.
Ferrell's character Ron Burgundy is the beloved lead anchorman for a San Diego news station, along with other respected anchors for sports and weather and such. I can't tell you their names, because they're too boring for me to remember. One's gimmick, the one played by Carell, is that he is mentally retarded with an "IQ of 45," but the only real difference between him and just about every other character is that his mental problem has been diagnosed.
They're on top, so when a woman is hired on the station and garners some success, they become enraged, because she's a woman! This premise lends itself to an ongoing joke in the film; the anchors are sexist! They treat women like means for sex, and this is acted out in a very juvenile fashion. Prejudice is funny when it's made to look ridiculously bad, but here, it feels like just another joke. Initially the film-makers try to make the woman, played by Christina Applegate, a straight-man to their idiocy, which was functional until they gave up on that idea. Eventually her character becomes a whole lot less strong, and she falls for sexist dope Burgundy because that's what the dumb script calls for. I cringed and literally face-palmed throughout the film.
The core issue here is that the movie really doesn't know what it wants to do. Is it really trying to smartly satire old-school misogyny? If so, why is the woman turned into a submissive (and even damselized, at the end) joke? Is it about Burgundy's station beating out its competitors, like a very involved fight scene towards the middle, and an important exchange of dialogue at the climax, both seem to allude to? If so, why is it so underdeveloped? There's a colorful bit of animation abstractly visualizing sex, is it really just supposed to be a senseless, ludicrous collection of comedy? If so, why ground the movie in troubling, serious subject matter?
The movie also has a habit of pretending its actors are much more talented than they actually are. And that isn't a slight at the talent here, because it really does bring together impressive performers. It's just that most of the jokes are one-man shows. We're usually watching an actor act towards the camera. To sustain a movie, it would make more sense to have the cast working off of each other more.
I can be a bit positive about the movie. It's not actually offensive, it just doesn't work. And it is occasionally funny. The attempts at satire don't really work, but when it's just trying to be humorously stupid, it tends to work a good bit. That animation I mentioned earlier is quite funny, and there's some good laughs when things get very ridiculous towards the end.
But the high points really aren't enough. I was surprised how much of a mess this movie is. Anchorman sports an all-star cast alongside its fantastically talented leading man. It's a shame that it's so awful.