Don’t be the guy who finds himself on the floor, choking, coughing and gasping for breath in a vast pool of his own urine. Don’t be that guy.
Be instead the guy who, much like a responsible patient soon scheduled for an elective surgical procedure, avoids drinking liquids of any nature for 12 hours before stumbling into “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” Because there was much surprise pee tonight. Slacks and skirts and cinema seats found themselves far damper at 9 p.m. than they were at 7:30.
“Anchorman” (and I can scarcely believe I am typing these words) is almost certainly one of the 10 funniest motion pictures I have ever seen. That is to say, it is “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” funny. It is “Airplane!” funny. “Dr. Strangelove” funny. “Annie Hall” funny. “Caddyshack” funny. “The Graduate” funny. “Modern Romance” funny. “Pulp Fiction” funny. “South Park” funny. There’s enough genius on display to power the other dozen or so best comedies we’ll see this year and next.
That “Saturday Night Live” sketch with Christopher Walken hectoring Will Ferrell to fill a prescription for “more cowbell”? It will not prepare moviegoers in any way for the depths of lunacy this brainily stupid movie plumbs. And this is certainly true also of those “Anchorman” TV commercials, which offer zero clue as to the relentlessness of the project’s comedic onslaught.
Mind you, I am not a boy renowned for the laughing aloud. So here’s what kept happening. Ferrell, who plays an impossibly deluded and infantile local broadcaster, will say something hideously, hilariously grotesque and inappropriate. I double up, wailing, having to repeatedly drive my fist into my thigh as my t-shirt collar grows damp with tears. Before I can begin to catch my breath, Steve Carell, who portrays a meteorologist with a sub-Gump I.Q., will say or do something far funnier (I can’t begin to count the number of times Carell blindsides the audience). Then Paul Rudd or David Koechner, as Burgundy’s weak-minded lieutenants, will do or say something even funnier. Or Vince Vaughn. Or Jack Black. Or Tim Robbins. Or Luke Wilson. Or Ben Stiller.
The movie is the antithesis of predictable, riddled with bizarre ambushes of pitch-black absurdity. There are gags involving deadly kodiak bears and hatchets and dogs and dismemberment and cologne and a phone booth and lust and jealousy and imbecility. And as sharp as the script (credited to Ferrell and director Adam McKay) feels, one is left with the perverse conviction that half the movie was just crafted from thin air as the cameras were rolling (a conviction bolstered in no small way by likely the finest assemblage of outtakes I’ve ever seen slapped over a scroll of closing credits).
I tell you, my tiny brain was depleted of oxygen for unsafe spans of time. As I sit here typing, my Herculean sides are literally aching, my eyes literally red and raw from the production of tears.
“Anchorman” is worth the price of admission just to see Ferrell sell Burgundy’s seemingly endless arsenal of “Great Caesar’s Ghost”-like exclamations. There’s a climactic fight scene involving something like five different local anchor teams that, I swear, damn near cost me my life. I can’t conceive of the mounds of cash this monster is going to garner. If you can find another movie half as funny, buy it.
Herc’s rating for “Anchorman”:
The Hercules T. Strong Rating System:
***** better than any of us deserve
**** enormously entertaining
*** actually worth your valuable time
** as horrible as most stuff on TV
* makes you quietly pray for a fire