Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, 2004
In 1970s San Diego, Channel 4 News is staffed by buffoons.
Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, 2006
Race car driver Ricky Bobby tries to get the eye of the tiger
back after a wreck.
Evaluation and commentary
After being disappointed by Borat I decided
to look into some other popular comedies to see whether they might be any
better. I really liked Will Ferrell's Bush parodies for
TBS, but Anchorman
is just dumb. I can see why it's supposed to be funny — there are
people acting like buffoons, there are wacky non-sequiturs, there is a lot
of shouting, and I guess some people like that sort of thing. I was so
unamused that I turned it off after about half an hour.
I therefore had very low expectations starting up Talladega Nights,
but I figured that as long as I had it I might as well give it a try. Much
to my surprise, it is much better! Yes, it's uneven, and Sacha Baron Cohen
as the villain is really just shockingly unfunny — how did this guy
become a critical darling? he's this generation's Adam Sandler! — but
there are some genuinely funny moments here. It helps a lot that Ferrell is
basically playing his version of George W. Bush in all his obtuse red-state
triumphalism. It helps even more that the script taps other veins of humor
besides zany buffoonery. After an abysmal first ten minutes, things suddenly
pick up when, in the middle of saying grace, Ricky Bobby is interrupted
by his wife, who points out, "Hey, um, y'know, sweetie, Jesus did grow up...
you don't always have to call him 'Baby'... it's a bit odd an'
off-puttin' to pray to a baby" and after a brief argument ("I like the
Christmas Jesus best!") Bobby resumes, "Dear eight-pound, six-ounce, newborn
infant Jesus... don't even know a word yet..." Now that's funny! It works
on so many levels: it draws attention to the fact that Bobby has been
referring to "lord baby Jesus" and "tiny infant Jesus," which Ferrell had
been deftly underplaying; the way actress Leslie Bibb delivers the "Jesus
did grow up" line is funny, with its undercurrent of "I should not provoke
the man-boy but I have reached my breaking point"; it mocks the subculture
that does in fact infantilize its savior-deity; Bobby's response is
hilariously passive-aggressive. There are even funnier moments later on
in the film. Again, it's uneven, but all in all I'd recommend it.
So now I dunno. Maybe I gave up on Anchorman too soon. I mean,
the first half hour was terrible, but maybe it would have gotten better,
and at least it didn't have Sacha Baron Cohen in it.
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