Directed by Adam McKay. USA. 2004.

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Trying to extend jokes about an egocentric numbskull of a newsreader and placing him in the past of the male dominated 1970s was never going to work and it again fails here, but not without some trying from Will Ferrell who plays the eponymous hero.

Although he has now left Saturday Night Live this is still in essence an SNL film with people from the show in supporting roles and other members of that comedies fraternity.  Steve Carrell of The Daily Report with Jon Stewart, Fred Willard from the Second City comedy troop, Christina Applegate of Married with Children and some special guest cameos.  But like Ferrell’s Night at the Roxbury (Fortenberry, US, 1998) taking a single joke character and spreading it over 90 minutes does have its problems.

There is no introduction to the character, we take him for what he is, a monkey-reading the autocue and the only times he can reflect on himself is when he is talking to his dog and even then it is not funny, ‘How many times have I told you I don’t speak Spanish?’  The best comedy films have genuine moments of sincerity and grace coupled with the punch line - from There’s Something About Mary (Farrelly, US, 1998) to Groundhog Day (Ramis, US, 1992) we are usually sympathetic of the lead character’s plight.  For Ron Burgundy what plight does he have to fear, but his attraction to a woman who ultimately wants his job.  Unlike Buddy in Elf, his previous box-office hit, Ferrell cannot exhibit the same amount of sentiment and heart-felt emotion into the character that has the same IQ as Buddy.

Ferrell is ably supported by Christina Applegate who seems to be getting all the roles that Jennifer Aniston turns down.  This is a shame because Applegate has produced great work in American comedy and here shows she can hang with the big boys.  

The film though has a weak plot about the work-place; the hero is usurped by someone close to him or someone he is mentoring.  The humour comes when satirising what the newsreaders say when the credits roll at the end - the autocue jokes we have all seen before.  But by degrading women or taking a swipe at women in the workplace, the film falls on death ears.

What really got my goat though about this film was that the trailer made me laugh so hard the first time I saw it.  And there you go, I have to start learning that any trailer that makes you laugh that hard means that all the best jokes are in the trailer.  And after ten minutes I was fully aware of this rule.

The DVD is okay, the outtakes amount to 25 minutes and are okay but feature a lot of Ferrell ad-libbing or improvising and people laughing at each other.  The commentary is pretty much the director and co-writer, McKay laughing with Ferrell at the work they have done.

Overall, Ferrell tries but fails to deliver in this.  It might set him back but if the trailer for Melinda and Melinda (Allen, US, 2004) is anything to go by he should be right on track.  Even though that made me laugh as well.

Jamie Garwood
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