Wednesday, July 14, 2004

1970

That is the year that the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" started on television. We all know the story, she's "going to make it on her own!" It was a great show, with Mary as a serious newroom writer.

Anchorman, in its continual flitting between banal joke to banal joke, forgets that the 70's themselves had humorous critiques of itself and women's roles in the communications world. I agreed with every comment that Elizabeth had regarding Anchorman save two. First, I don't recommend it and second I found the performance of Steve Carell, the weatherman (and future Bush Whitehouse advisor), to be simple. Funny? Yes, but in a childish, Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber way. You know the scene where Jim Carrey asks if the hitchhiker wants to hear the most annoying sound in the world? That's Brick to a tee.

The problem with period satire/parody is that to be successful they must at some place love the thing that they are ridiculing. Take That 70's Show or King of the Hill for example. One is a period piece, the other a "place" piece. Both make fun of the time/place they occur in relentlessly, but both also exhibit at the core a love of the subject. That 70's Show not only makes fun of the 70's but 70's sit coms (Happy Days) as well. The characters dress in exaggerated 70's wear, get stoned almost daily, and lead Richie Cunningham lives with All in the Family financials. The same creators tried the same style of humor with That 80's Show, but failed. Why? Because they didn't love the 80's. For them the 80's were crystal clear in their minds and seemed absurd, but the 70's were a kind of surreal Golden Days. Thus the one show is funny and heartfelt, while the other came off as banal and mean.

This is how I felt about Anchorman. Sure, the littering jokes were funny. Sure it had lots of cameos. But it didn't love anything about the 70's. Imagine Austin Powers if Mike Myers hated James Bond, Alfie, and Flint. Imagine that he had never seen any of the films about these characters. With this background he decided to make a spy movie spoof. It would fall flat. Anchorman is neither character driven nor an unending serious of disconnected jokes. Somewhere in there is a story about a character, but that story is confused. Does Will Farrell want to tell jokes or make political statements? "Look how rediculous the 70's were! Everybody smoked, and littered, and was ignorant of the origins of cities names!"

Had Anchorman presented an exaggeration of Network, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The China Syndrome, and Smokey and the Bandit it could have been brilliant. As it was, it was merely a failure. Though it did reference Benji: the Hunted that classic 1978 children's film. Wanna know how An chorman made me feel? "Wait I have something to say! Waaaaaaaaaaah!"

One and a half stars.
Post a Comment