”Anchorman” transports us back to a familiar, silly world of embarrassing facial hair and ugly polyester clothes — a mythic land that even schoolchildren will identify as the 1970s. If it were not for that benighted decade and its wayward pop culture, there might not be anything for movies like this one to make inoffensive fun of. And ”Anchorman,” written and directed by a former ”Saturday Night Live” head writer, Adam McKay, is studiously harmless.
Its title character, a San Diego news reader named Ron Burgundy, swills Scotch before going on the air, smokes cigarettes in the office, and ogles female co-workers, but it’s all in good fun and all part of a weak satire on the outmoded attitudes of a distant era.
Instead, Mr. Ferrell leads the cast through a series of inspired set pieces and ridiculous nonsequiturs. There is a rousing, table-stomping interlude of jazz flute playing, a semi-animated sex-fantasy sequence full of white horses and rainbows, and a chance to hear Ron intone the words ”whale’s vagina.” (In context, it’s hilarious.) There is also a conversation between a dog and a bear, and a rumble among rival news teams as memorable for its movie-star cameos as for its brutal slapstick.
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