Anchorman, co-written by its star, Will Ferrell, plays like a series of outtakes strung together more or less in random sequence. There's a vague plot, about the fall and rise of a San Diego newsman whose polyester suits are brighter than he is, but this doesn't propel the movie forward so much as keep it from spilling off the edges of the screen.
What you see at the movie's beginning and end might as well be a highlight reel of Ferrell's previous appearances as anchorman Ron Burgundy on Saturday Night Live: Burgundy drinking scotch at his desk before he goes live ("Scotch, scotch, scotch, down to my belly"), lambasting an off-screen makeup artist for her bush-league work, complimenting another on her body. But Anchorman didn't spring from SNL -- it only feels that way, given director and co-writer Adam McKay's stint as a writer for the show, plus appearances from current cast members Chris Parnell as a station exec, Fred Armisen as a Latin jazz club owner, and former SNL'er David Koechner as the sports anchor.
One must, if nothing else, appreciate the dedication the filmmakers put into finding the funny; the gag reel accompanying the final credits feels nearly as long as the movie itself, suggesting a willingness to let the camera go till a punch line stuck to the film. Most of the scenes appearing in the Anchorman trailer didn't even make the final cut, including one in which Burgundy takes a bullet for rival co-anchor Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate, possessing, as she explains, "exquisite breasts"), which would have been a major plot point in any other movie but was expendable in this case. And the biggest laughs come from the most nonsensical, insane moments, including an incredibly violent rumble between Burgundy's Channel 4 news team.
Anchorman is set during "the time before cable," says an off-screen narrator, "when the local anchor reigned supreme and only men were allowed to read the news." Reading the news, however, is Ron Burgundy's sole talent, and even that is suspect; he's so dim that he believes San Diego is German for "a whale's vagina." But, by far, he's the smartest of the news-dispensing quartet: Paul Rudd's correspondent Brian Fantana has a nickname not only for his penis but also for each testicle; Koechner's urban cowboy Champ Kind is "all about having fun" and starting the occasional fire; and Steve Carell's weatherman Brick Tamland possesses an IQ of 48. (Carell provides the movie's best moments; he's nuts enough to render Ferrell the straight man.)
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One is willing to forgive Anchorman its idiocy because of its lunacy. At its best, it plays like modern-day Marx Brothers, in which every single thing that happens makes no sense and serves no purpose.