I'm not claiming that Adam McKay's "Anchorman" is some underground diamond in the rough that mainstream audiences missed out on. With that said, there's a reason why this is one of the most quotable, funniest movies of all time.
Explaining why "Anchorman" is a funny movie is kind of like explaining to somebody why food is good for you. I don't know of many people that don't get some kind of enjoyment out of this film. It is the definition of a classic. Nowadays, we like to go back and look at comedies and judge them by whether or not they could be made today, but I feel like "Anchorman" is one of those comedies that's actually aged better over time.
I'm sure there are a lot of risqué jokes that couldn't fly in 2023, but this movie was kind of like the Avengers of Comedy. Three of the four main actors went on to become A-list stars. Will Ferrell was already on his way. He left SNL in 2002, and "Anchorman" came out in 2004, but Paul Rudd and Steve Carell were on the up and up, and this movie kind of propelled them to superstardom. You have 1 million different character actors playing small roles. And almost all of them are funny. One of my favorite characters is the late Fred Willard as the head of the TV station. He has some of the funniest throwaway lines in the movie.
The 2000s, especially among people my age, is viewed as maybe the best decade for comedy movies ever. "Anchorman" is constantly referenced as being perhaps the best of that era. Why is that? Because a movie like "Anchorman" existed at a time in which films were allowed to just be funny. Nowadays, just making something funny is frowned upon. I think the career that Adam McKay has had recently is a reflection of that. He used to be the guy who just directed goofy Will Ferrell movies. Now he's the comedy Director with a message. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm one of the few people in the world who championed his last movie, "Don't Look Up," but I've written about the stuff before. Movies are meant to be escapism. There's nothing wrong with simply wanting to be entertained. Comedies in the 2000s seemed to understand that assignment. "Anchorman" did it better than almost any. ￼￼
Even though this is one of my favorite movies, it’s hard for me to praise it the way I’ve praised other movies I’ve written about. Why does it work? It’s funny. It’s really, really, really funny. Every time I watch it, I laugh at the same jokes. It has to be one of the most re-watchable comedies ever made. But I think the true strength of this film is Adam McKay’s direction.
When you watch so many modern comedies (even modern Will Ferrell movies), they’re often directed by a person who doesn’t understand the importance of editing. Will Ferrell is a very funny man. He does not bat 1.000 with his jokes. A good Director knows when to cut off the fucking camera. This is a nice, tight 90-minute movie. That’s what a comedy should be. I feel like Judd Apatow is responsible for making epic comedies that are over two hours. Comedy is not a genre that lends itself to bloated run times. It’s why so many comedies from the 2000s are so much tighter than what we get in the modern age.
"Anchorman" is a prime example of why a director's intent matters when judging the effectiveness of a movie. This film isn't trying to be a deep, meaningful drama. It was never trying for any Academy Awards, yet for what it is, it's perfect. The best jokes stayed in the movie, and the worst jokes were on the cutting room floor. I didn't hate "Anchorman 2," but I think most people would admit it wasn't able to recapture the magic that made the first film special. It's hard to believe that this film is almost 20 years old. The fact that it has endured the way that it has is a testament to its hilarity. It's not just one of my favorite comedies. It's one of my favorite films.