The very premise of "Anchorman" invites some obvious jokes, and in about 10 minutes' time we've burned through them all: '70s-era anchormen wear loud suits and have funny hair. '70s anchormen are pompous blowhards. '70s anchormen have cheesy pickup lines, but when they try them on the newly arrived women's libber, they get punched in the crotch.
Once working through those gems, however, "Anchorman" still has 85 minutes to go, and let me assure you that they'll prove to be some of the longest minutes of your life. The movie degenerates into a never-ending improv skit where, as minutes stretch into hours, the performers become increasingly shrill and the only sound from the audience is the occasional embarrassed cough or whispered plea for the sweet release of death.
It's no coincidence that writer/director Adam McKay -- like star and cowriter Will Ferrell -- is an alumnus of Saturday Night Live, where they spend more time beating a dead horse than on Animal Planet. Whenever he senses the skit is running thin, McKay compensates with yelling, wacky fights, talking dogs or sending the story on an over-the-top tangent so utterly, desperately random that the increasingly agitated audience is thrown for a complete loop. The experience is both unfunny and strangely exhausting.
Sometimes when I see a bad movie, I'm moved to think, "Wow, how awful. This feels like it must have been the first draft of the script." In the case of "Anchorman," if there's a completed first draft to be found at all, I'll lick a theater floor clean. The story follows Ron Burgundy, a '70s-era San Diego TV anchorman topping the local ratings. He offends a new arrival at a staff party, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) with some cheesy pickup lines, and of course it's more certain than flies around Courtney Love that this object of his affections will show up in the next scene as his new work rival.
The movie virtually spews cameos, which can be fun in some situations, but here just reinforces that sense that McKay and Ferrell found a bunch of '70s kitsch at a thrift store, invited the ever-narrowing Hollywood comedy clique over to play with it, then filmed the whole thing and tried to pawn it off on the rest of us as entertainment. Jack Black, Tim Robbins and Luke Wilson drop in, as do Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller, who pop by from the "Dodgeball" set in the next lot because apparently it can't be officially declared a bad Hollywood comedy if Ben Stiller's not in it.
This just in: "Anchorman" stinks.
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