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ON FILM: Ferrell’s Burgundy is aging like wine

By Philip Martin

This article was published September 10, 2010 at 2:19 a.m.

— The Will Ferrell/Adam McKay combine snuck up on me; I remember mildly enjoying Old School in 2003 but I almost totally missed Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy when it was released in July 2004.

You probably know the movie. Ferrell stars as a self-important ’70s newscaster based in San Diego who finds his turf invaded by a female coanchor (Christina Applegate). Now I see it as a kind of minor classic, a goofy mixture of cruelty and innocence that may be the best Will Ferrell movie ever. (Is that faint praise? I actually think Ferrell - who I’ve interviewed a few times, is a very bright guy and a fine actor who’d do very well in dramatic supporting roles. But those roles don’t pay $20 million a picture.)

Not being the sort of movie that studios go out of their way to present to critics, Anchorman eluded me for months. The review that ran in this newspaper - written by Chris Hewitt of the Saint Paul Pioneer Press - described it as a skit-and-miss affair, dominated by the Saturday Night Live ethos of slapstick and random catchphrases. Hewitt didn’t like it very much and he’s reliable, so I didn’t feel bad about skipping the movie.

It wasn’t until some months later that I actually saw the movie - it was the in-flight film on a trans-Atlantic flight. The bowdlerized for travel version didn’t strike meas very memorable. I thought the finale at the zoo was pretty lame.

I don’t know when my opinion of the movie began to change or why - I don’t think I’ve ever sat down and watched it all the way through, but I’ve caught scenes of it here and there over the years and I’ve heard hundreds of guys quoting it - but I’ve developed a genuine affection for the movie. I think maybe the best way to receive it is in the secondhand, atomized way - the movie isn’t great, but there are moments in it (“Afternoon Delight,” Brick killing a man with a trident, “Scotchy Scotch Scotch”) that are sublime.

It’s more like Caddyshack (another movie that’s better nibbled at than swallowed whole) than, say, Animal House or Some Like It Hot. By no means is Anchorman a great movie. But I not only understand why some people love it, I think I’m even beginning to love it a little myself.

All this to say that the film is now available on Blu-ray, in a two-disc set available exclusively (for the next few months) at Best Buy (it’s called the “Rich Mahogany Edition”). It’s got all the usual special features (including the companion film Wake Up, Ron Burgundy) and it’s selling for $24.95.

In other Anchorman news, the long-rumored sequel is apparently off again, even though Ferrell, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell all agreed to take less than their usual salaries. Stay tuned.

HOUSEKEEPING

For about seven months now I’ve been writing the Home Movies column for this section, and I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. I actually like writing the little capsule reviews (I’m thinking of paring them down to a 140-character Tweet format) and doing the column forces me to take a look at a lot of movies of which I wouldn’t otherwise bother.

For instance, I might have missed the excellent Solitary Man (in stores this week) hadI not started doing the column same goes for the David Duchovny/Demi Moore dramedy The Joneses. The downside is that I’m exposed to a lot of pretty terrible stuff. While not every straight-to-video movie is a misbegotten nightmare (Slumdog Millionaire very nearly went straight to video) there’s an awful lot of half-baked product out there. There are limits to the stuff I’ll watch. (Sorry, I will screen Marmaduke, but I draw the line at Furry Vengeance.)

But since I’ve started writing the Home Movies column, I’ve gradually moved away from writing about DVD releases in this space. That’s not entirely on purpose; I wrote a little more about Anchorman than could comfortably fit in Home Movies so I stuck it at the top of this one.

I still intend to occasionally write about some DVD releases (like maybe the Criterion Collection’s coming soon Blu-ray editions of Breathless and Night of the Hunter) in depth in this space. (We used to occasionally run a column called Flashback, where I’d write about a particular old movie - in a perfect world with unlimited space and psychic energy maybe I’d bring that back.)

But most of our DVD coverage is going to be in the Home Movies column.

I wish I could devote more time and space to the column,because my sense is that most people who read about movies are likely to watch most of their movies at home.

Movie theaters are becoming special occasion destinations - places people want to go to see the latest, greatest 3-D spectacle in Dolby stereo. Movie theaters are expensive. But a 46-inch HD TV that cost you $2,000 in 2008 can now be had for about $500. Blu-ray players can be had for less than $150. If you’re interested, you can even get a 3-D television.

(I don’t think 3-D TV is a great idea, and I don’t think 3-D movies are going to continue to proliferate. I do think it’s all about digital projection - and the whole subject is for another column.)

Finally, I promised quite a few people that I’d let them know when That Evening Sun came out on home video. Well, it was released Tuesday. You can put it in your queue or buy a copy or whatever - and ifyou haven’t seen it you should, I think it’s one of the best films of the last decade.

E-mail:

pmartin@arkansasonline.com

MovieStyle, Pages 35 on 09/10/2010

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