One of the finest and funniest comedies with SNL alumn Will Ferrell, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy finds Ferrell starring in the title role. Ron Burgundy is the ultra-popular news anchorman who brings the San Diego of the mid-1970's their evening news each and every night. He may be a bit of a dunce but the world is his oyster. He's ridiculously popular and quite wealthy and he's made a good living heading up his news team: sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), slightly slow weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and field reporter Brian Fontana (Paul Rudd). This being the seventies and the newsroom being very much a 'man's game' it stands to reason that these guys are more than just a little bit sexist.
Imagine their surprise then, when their equally sexist producer, Ed Harken (Fred Willard), tells the team that they're bringing in a new member - Miss Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). It seems that a small segment of the viewing public has complained about the fact that there is no diversity on the show and so Veronica is being brought on board to demonstrate to the community that the station really does care about such things. Of course, Veronica is immediately put down by her male co-workers. Ron sees her as nothing more than eye candy and the rest of the staff treat her no better. Soon though, Veronica starts to fall for Ron despite his oafish ways, and he finds himself just as interested in her. Ron and Veronica's personal relationship soon becomes strained by their professional one and before you know it they're trying to out do one another on air, and eventually one of them will have to emerge the victor.
There are a few quirky subplots involving news-teams who rumble like street gangs (rival anchormen are played by Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller, and Tim Robbins), Ron's beloved dog Baxter and his run-in with a biker (Jack Black), and Ed's ongoing problems with his son's school but the bulk of the film centers around the dynamic between Ron and Veronica and how it changes the news team. As such the success of the film really rests on Ferrell's on screen chemistry with Koechner, Carell and Rudd and, more, with Applegate. Thankfully, these relationships work really well in the picture. When Ferrell interacts with his male co-stars it's very much a 'guys night out' dynamic and it makes for a humorous contrast against his nervous relationship with Applegate, who proves here that she's more than just Kelly Bundy. While Ferrell is hysterical in the part and perfectly cast in the lead (try not to bust a gut during the flute sequence - 'Aqualung!') the producers have been smart enough to surround him with some equally talented comedic actors. Carell steals every scene he's in with his turn as the 'mentally challenged' weatherman and Rudd and Koechner are almost as funny in their respective supporting roles.
While the humor in the film is obvious in spots, at times it's also completely off the wall which gives the picture a fair amount of replay value. Director Adam McKay (who worked with Ferrell on SNL and who would direct him again in Talladega Nights) paces the film well so that it never overstays its welcome and so that the jokes come in very quick succession. While it's fair to criticize the film for not always staying coherent and a lot of times the humor is just sort of there, rather than part of the actual plot, there's no denying that the movie is genuinely funny. Those who don't already like Ferrell won't be convinced by the movie but for those who do appreciate his odd brand of comedy, Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy is comedy gold!
Those who have seen Anchorman on standard definition DVD will notice the improvement in picture quality almost immediately on this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen 1080p AVC transfer. Detail is improved even if at times the picture is just a little bit soft. Colors look nice and bright, the various garish pieces of wardrobe used in the film in particular look quite good, although it won't be hard to notice more grain than you might expect from a film made so recently (it's actually distracting in a couple of scenes). Aside from that, however, the film looks quite good here. There are no problems with compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement and fine detail is pretty strong throughout. The softness and grain that show up in some scenes keep the transfer from scoring higher but it certainly looks good even if it doesn't look great.
Audio options are supplied in English, French and Spanish language Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround Sound with optional subtitles in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish and closed captioning available in English only.
As far as the quality of the audio is concerned, it's fine. Anchorman doesn't have a particularly aggressive sound mix to play off of and so the rears are really only used sparingly for background noise and music. They do kick in now and again during the few action scenes but for the most part this is a very dialogue heavy picture which means that most of the audio comes at you front and center in the mix. That said, the levels are well balanced, there are no problems with any audible hiss or distortion and the performers are always easy enough to understand.
While the supplemental material that was exclusive to the Wake Up Ron Burgundy disc that was included in the Anchorman gift set standard definition DVD release is not included, all of the extras off of the single disc release have been ported over for the film's HD-DVD debut.
First up is a commentary track courtesy of star Will Ferrell, director Adam McKay, co-star Christina Applegate, and an assortment of other 'guest stars' including Andy Richter, Paul Rudd, Kyle Gass, David Koechner and musician Lou Rawls. The track is more than a little chaotic so don't expect a whole lot of information pertaining to the making of the film. Instead this track is played more for comedic effect than anything else. Rawls shows up for the sole purpose of criticizing Ferrell's flute skills and much of this track is simply Ferrell doing improve with the rest of the participants. How much you get out of this will depend on your appreciation of Ferrell's own brand of comedy but it's a pretty safe bet that if you dug the humor in the film, you'll get a kick out of this track. The supposed fight between Richter and Gass, who have nothing to do with the movie, and Ferrell and McKay is actually pretty funny as is the discussion between Ferrell and McKay regarding what can and can't be done on an un-rated DVD.
Up next is a documentary entitled The Making Of Anchorman that is unfortunately pretty superficial. At just over ten-minutes in length it doesn't get particularly in-depth though some of the cast interviews are amusing. Like the commentary track, it's played more for laughs than for informational purposes but it's worth watching once for a few funny bits.
A Conversation With Ron Burgundy finds Ferrell in character being interviewed about his life and his career by Bill Kurtis in front of a live audience. It's quite amusing as Ferrell doesn't break character at all, so the 'wit and charm' of the Ron Burgundy we know and love from the feature carries over perfectly here. In the same vein is the brief Ron Burgundy's ESPN Audition clips which finds Ferrell, again in character, trying out for a spot on the famous sports channel.
Dreamworks has also included roughly a half an hour's worth of Deleted Scenes that are actually worth going through. There are twenty-two scenes here in total and highlights include more with Vince Vaughn's character, extended bits detailing what really happened during Baxter's time on the road, some alternate ending material, and a quick appearance from SCTV's Joe Flaherty in a fun cameo role that should have been left in the feature.
Other extras include a seven minute Blooper Reel which contains some amusing flubs and messy line readings captured during the production. Ron Burgundy At The MTV Movie Awards is a seven minute clip documenting Ferrell's in-character appearance where he interviews a few notable celebrities, most of whom seem annoyed by his tactics. Special Report is a fun bit where we get a chance to see the complete versions of the news reports that appear in the background during a few scenes in the movie. These are presented here in their complete form and many of them are quiet funny. Commercial Break is one last bit with Ferrell in character doing his thing.
Rounding out the extra features are the film's original theatrical trailer, the Afternoon Delight music video, animated menus and chapter stops. Unfortunately, all of the supplements on this HD-DVD are presented in standard definition.
While the audio and video aren't reference quality this is still a very solid presentation of a truly hilarious and original comedy. It would have been nice to see the Wake Up Ron Burgundy material here and to see the extras in HD but otherwise this HD-DVD of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy should please fans of the film and it comes highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.