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Anchorman is funny as hell.

Trading hysterically rude insults beneath the newscast's credits.
Trading hysterically rude insults beneath the newscast's credits.
Anchorman, co-written by its star Will Ferrell, plays like a series of outtakes. 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.

One must, if nothing else, appreciate the dedication the makers of Anchorman 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. The biggest laughs come from the most nonsensical moments, including an incredibly violent rumble between Burgundy's Channel 4 news team (former SNLer David Koechner, The Daily Show's Steve Carrell and Paul Rudd) and the other stations' reporters, played by Vince Vaughn and just about everyone else with whom Ferrell has ever worked.

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, he'll read anything on the TelePrompter, even a question mark placed after his name during his tepid sign-off ("I'm Ron Burgundy -- you stay classy, San Diego"). But he's the smartest of the news-dispensing quartet: Rudd's correspondent Brian Fantana is the self-proclaimed "stylish one," who 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 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.)

All share a disdain for the idea of women in the newsroom. To Ron, diversity is "an old wooden ship used during the Civil War"; it is not sharing his desk with a woman who spends her spare time practicing her nonregional dialect and whose goal is anchoring a network newscast. Their relationship begins as a rivalry, evolves into a romance, and collapses into their trading hysterically rude insults beneath the newscast's credits. She will ultimately be the cause of his undoing -- and his redemption, if such a thing is possible for a man who believes he's actually having conversations with his dog.

One is willing to forgive Anchorman its idiocy because of its lunacy. At its best it plays like modern-day Marx Brothers; it exists solely to get a laugh (and earns extra points for carrying on an erection joke for so long that it stops being funny and starts being funny all over again). Anchorman is stupid, sure, but never dumb.

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