As ‘Starsky & Hutch’ proved, ’70s men are an easy comic target. They can be reduced to familiar stereotypes, while providing a source of guilt-free sexist gags. Such gags result when anchorman Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and pals get their flares in a flap about ambitious new employee Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). No sooner has Ron wooed her than she’s stepping into his shoes. Will he accept her success graciously? No, he’ll bellow obscure insults from the rooftops and pound his hairy chest at the shame of being eclipsed by a female.
In this world, being an anchorman is the ultimate masculine prize. As Veronica’s power increases, her male colleagues weaken. Their pride can only be reclaimed by rescuing Veronica from bears in a zoo (‘We bears are a proud race. They must pay for their intrusion,’ the creatures growl via subtitles, before grudgingly accepting newcomers as the anchormen do).
But plot isn’t the primary interest here: this is as flimsy as a sitcom, and it’s shot like one too. Like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch, it’s propelled by its absurd humour, from silly erection jokes to hilariously surreal exchanges (‘What?… You know I don’t speak Spanish,’ Ron admonishes his barking dog). This takes a joke and runs with it – sometimes too far, but usually long enough to wear you down and force you to submit to its craziness. With cameos from chums Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Luke Wilson and Vince Vaughn, the film smacks of self-indulgence, but throws enough comic talent at the screen to make it stick. This particular boys’ club isn’t facing extinction just yet.