In the tradition of Batman Begins and Casino Royale the clock is rolled back on the legendary icons the D—the self-proclaimed greatest band in the world—as the curtain is pulled back on their secret origins and the demons that drive them are unveiled… OK so it’s not really that deep. Though the heavy metal/comedy combo of Jack/JB/”Jabeles” (Jack Black) and Kyle/KB/”Kage” (Kyle Gass) have long played hip clubs cut an album starred in their own short-lived HBO series and amassed a devoted cult of fans their first feature film reveals how the pudgy duo first meet form the band meet their first fan (Jason Reed as TV holdover Lee) go questing the fabled Pick of Destiny—a shard of Satan’s tooth turned into a guitar pick passed among rock’s most accomplished shredders—and ultimately smack down with the devil himself. Believe it or not it’s a love story. Thanks to their long professional partnership Black and Gass comprise two perfectly crafted sides of a very polished comedy coin: Black is the wild-eyed uncontrolled id Gass is the low-energy manipulative slacker and they meet in the middle with an equal amount of unchecked delusion about their musical ability and potential. They both deftly pull off the trickiest types of comedy: smart jokes in the guise of dumb characters and it’s nice to see Black—obviously the bigger film star of the two—share the funniest bits equally with Gass. Of course all of this hinges on the audience’s tolerance for the ambitiously clueless ego-cases (and moviegoers who only love Black for his tamer version of the same persona in School of Rock should be warned—this is the cruder ruder and more profane incarnation) but we admit we’ve long had a taste for the D. They boys carry they movie squarely on their shoulders though longtime D supporters Tim Robbins and Ben Stiller stand out in cameos—the first Stiller cameo in ages that’s both amusing and non-gratuitous! Also appearing in small bits: SNL’s Fred Armisen and Amy Poehler Oscar-nominee Amy Adams Colin Hanks hard rock hero Ronnie James Dio Foo Fighter Dave Grohl as Satan and an uncredited John C. Reilly though you’ll never ever recognize him when he’s onscreen. And kudos to whoever had the inspired notion to cast Meat Loaf as JB’s pious father and Troy Gentile as the young rockin’ JB (Gentile also played a junior version of Black in Nacho Libre). Helmer Liam Lynch who also collaborated on the screenplay with Black and Gass and directed their music video “Tribute ” understands the absurd world of the D completely and demonstrates a clever assured sense of straight-faced silliness. Indeed the first ten minutes of the film alone—a mini-rock opera in itself—announce him as a comedy director to watch. Although we’re sure the bandmates themselves would take full credit for the film’s success. After all they may not have made the greatest movie in the world but in D-speak they came up with a pretty rockin’ tribute version.
Set in the 1970s male-dominated news world the dashing mustached Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is indeed a legend as San Diego's top-rated anchorman. He and his news team--including field reporter and all-around ladies man Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) sports cowboy Champ Kind (David Koechner) and mindless weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell)--live life large as local television icons boozing and womanizing with the best of them. As Ron puts it they have been coming to the "same party for 12 years--and in no way is that depressing." But their world is about to turn upside down when an ambitious newswoman Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) is hired by the managing news producer (Fred Willard) to spice things up. The guys aren't worried at first treating her like any other woman that is to say sexually harassing her--and despite that Veronica and Ron hit it off. But soon Ms. Corningstone's true agenda is revealed--she wants to land an anchor spot and she isn't about the let anything stand in her way including a perfectly coiffed slightly hairy idiot newsman named Ron Burgundy. Of course this means war.
No longer is Ferrell just a side character illuminating the proceedings with his hilarity. Along with pals Jack Black Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller (who make strategic cameos in Anchorman--but we aren't telling how 'cause that'll ruin the fun) the former Saturday Night Live alum has become one of the new kings of cinematic comedy. People expect Ferrell to be gut-bustin' funny now and luckily he delivers once again as Ron Burgundy. With a voice that "could make a wolverine purr " Burgundy is all hot air great hair and polyester debonair a dim bulb who tries to understand the news stories he recites but gives up quickly because it requires too much thought and simply reads the teleprompter exactly as it is written. Ferrell is at his best when he is allowed to free-associate either by himself (while getting ready to go on the air) or with his co-stars Rudd Koechner and Carell (singing a strangely harmonious rendition of "Afternoon Delight"). Keep your eyes on Carell--he is a comic gem on the rise. The Daily Show co-star had a brief but memorable turn in last year's Bruce Almighty as an anchorman (ironic huh?) Jim Carrey messes with but in Anchorman Carell is absolutely side-splitting as Brick who doesn't have a single brain cell working rattling off non sequiturs like "I ate an entire red candle " when talking about a party the night before. Christina Applegate subjected to this lunacy holds her own god bless her and does an admirable job playing the straight woman to this group of wackos.
Adam McKay former SNL head writer makes his directorial and screenwriting debut with Anchorman. The story has a fairly classic and simplistic framework--Burgundy starts out on top falls to rock bottom and climbs his way back up again--but it's pretty evident early on that with the likes of Ferrell and the rest all McKay has to do is turn the camera on them and let it all happen. Watching Burgundy incoherent breaking down in a phone booth after his dog is supposedly booted off a bridge by an irate motorcyclist or the news team rumble where San Diego news rivals go at each other with nasty weapons it's funny stuff. But rather than just let the comedy come from the story á la Old School Anchorman throws in some antics that probably sounded comical on paper but end up being silly and forced. For example Veronica and Ron going to "pleasure town " (sexual bliss) with animated furry animals and rainbows instead of seeing the love act itself or the gang trying to get out of a bear pit after they've woken up the hibernating animals that's a little over the top. At least Anchorman never goes for the toilet humor--nope you won't find a vomit urine semen or poop joke in this film. You will however find gratuitous shots of Ferrell's hairy chest. Shiver.