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There are far too many jokes about fire, tooting and flutes to fit in this small space.

There are far too many jokes about fire, tooting and flutes to fit in this small space.

Rated 4.0

Ever since playing Federal Wildlife Marshal Willenholly in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001), three years after wasting our time with A Night at the Roxbury, Will Ferrell has been consistently funny on the big screen. His film career’s comedic high point remains Frank the Tank in Old School, but his latest character, lovable lout Ron Burgundy of Anchorman, comes in at a close second.

Anchorman is one of those movies that will have half the audience clutching their gut and crying from laughter, while a quarter of the audience sits stone-faced and disgusted. The last quarter of people will giggle intermittently, enjoy themselves to a swell degree and even guffaw from time to time.

As Burgundy, a ‘70s news anchorman who reeks of chauvinism and scotch, Ferrell is consistently hilarious. The film that surrounds him—which is generally devoid of plot—is always entertaining. Ferrell’s commitment to being a full-time resident of Moronville is refreshing and completely bizarre.

When anchor wannabe Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) infiltrates the Boy’s Club at San Diego’s number-one television news headquarters, Ron Burgundy has a dilemma. While the pig inside can’t let her become anchor because she’s a woman, another more formidable pig inside can’t resist her fantastic heinie. He falls in love, which leads to complications as Corningstone ascends the media news ladder.

Nobody plays man-child like Ferrell, although some of the members of his news team come pretty close. David Koechner and Paul Rudd are stupidity incarnate as Champ Kind and Brian Fantana, two of Burgundy’s news cronies with appalling social manners and hell-low IQs. Still, they are mental giants compared to Brick Tamland (Steven Carell), who invites all, men and women alike, to a party in his pants. He does this with serious intentions, evidently believing that the pants party will feature soda and pie.

A subplot involves a rivalry with the city’s number-two news team, led by Wes Mantooth (Vince Vaughn in a role slightly larger than cameo). This rivalry leads to an all-out newsman war, a rumble scene rife with terrific cameos (none of which are to be given away).

In addition to the human comedy, Anchorman does great stuff with animals. Water-skiing squirrels and birthing pandas are the headline stories on the newscasts, and when a dog and bear converse near the film’s finale, the movie gets one of its biggest laughs. When it is first announced that a woman will be joining the news team, Burgundy and company warn that they’ve heard women attract bears (reason not to be given away).

Much of the material seen in the preview trailers didn’t make it to the final cut. Internet rumor has it that director Adam McKay shot enough material for two films, with enough subplots being excised from the Anchorman final cut to create another movie. The material seems destined for DVD, so those of you who don’t get enough of Ron Burgundy this time out can look forward to another possible fix.

As film comedies go, Anchorman winds up being quite the treat. It’s hard for a movie to inspire consistent laughter from an audience, but that’s precisely what this film did for me. There are a few groaners, but the failed jokes are better than most of the crap passing for humor in movies nowadays.

If Ferrell is a personal comic hero, feel intense joy in knowing that the man will not let you down. He’s on all eight cylinders here, with his rendition of “Afternoon Delight” and phone booth meltdown being worth the price of admission. (For additional fun, seek out the “Afternoon Delight” video currently running on MTV.) While Anchorman might not be the stuff of classic cinema, it delivers for Farrell fans, and creates a good argument for Brick Tamland: The Movie. (CPL, ER, NM)