Anchorman: Dumb summer laughs
"It smells like a burning turd... with hair on it."
So says one character in "Anchorman" describing the secret seduction cologne worn by another, but it could also well describe the acting talent of star Will Farrell.
"Anchorman" is a 90-minute version of a Saturday Night Live skit, but it has its moments - a street rumble between the newsroom staffs of various television stations including the pipe-smoking boys from PBS, had me laughing so hard I nearly wet myself.
The movie's so bad, it's nearly good. Really. Nearly.
Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) is a conceited, ditzy but somehow zenlike ladies' man anchor at a San Diego TV station in the 1970s - the days before cable TV and media consolidation, "and people believed everything they heard on television." His station ranks just ahead of that of rival Vince Vaughn ("Dodgeball") in a dog-eat-dog market.
But the arrival of Veronica (Christina Applegate), the sexy and ambitious reporter who wants to be the first female anchorperson, throws the station's sexists stars into turmoil. Burgandy falls for Veronica, but when the opportunity arises, she puts career first, and takes over his anchor desk.
Can witless Burgundy win back his lover and his job? Can the old boy network stand up to the new world order? Will the darn panda (a 43-part series by the TV station) ever give birth? Can your reporter afford both a bucket of medium popcorn AND a bag of peanut M&Ms at the Vista III snack stand without cashing in the kids' college fund?
Imagine - a town with two different groups of news reporters competing for stories - one the basically good guys who are always number one, the other also-rans desperate for attention? Um, nah, that could never happen...
The film is filled with cameos by a variety of stars, from Jack Black to Tim Robbins to the inescapable Ben Stiller. Just when you're ready to write it off as mindless drivel, they throw some outrageous sight comedy at you - from a rival reporter having his arms habitually ripped off, to a fistfight with grizzly bears in the San Diego zoo. And one of my favorites, Burgandy and his news staff singing pretty good four-part harmony on "Afternoon Delight" in their own dippy ode to love.
Applegate shows the comic skills she's learned growing up in sitcom-land, and Steven Carell, the nutty correspondent of Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show," steals this show as the aptly named dunce, Brick. He's a mentally-challenged, virginal weatherman who carries live grenades and winds up as a senior advisor to the Bush Administration. Okay, so at least that last part is believable.
On the downside, there's a lot of painful Ferrell - there's a reason Saturday Night Live's ratings went downhill. And the sophomoric jokes can get old at times - I lost count of the number of times the word "poop" is used.
Kids should be kept clear of this one - it may rot their brains. There was endless sleazy sex jokes (sorry, Applegate fans, no actual nekkidity), nonstop cussing, drinking and smoking - and all that was just in the audience during all those pre-movie advertisements.
It's a big cinematic brain-freeze, but there's a handful of real good laughs, and some nights, that's enough. I'll give it a thumbs-halfway-up. And hey, watching the previews, "Wimbledon" looks to be the most promising thing on the horizon.