Sunday, March 19, 2006

Guest Movie Review: "Anchorman" by Dan Rather 

It just goes to show, never burn your bridges while you're still on them.

Who would ever have expected me, Dan Rather -- respected journalist, news anchor, and winner of more awards for excellence than Aunt Edna's Possum Pot Pie -- to try his hand at film criticism, especially on this wildly irresponsible frontier called rant logging. But thanks to Mr. AbbaGav, this retired old dog has a chance to try scratchin' a few new ticks.

What helped AbbaGav finally get me off my retirement couch was the experience of seeing John Belushi's dramatic performance in the recent hard-hitting journalistic would-be cinematic tour-du-force called Anchorman. This is a movie whose review cries out for the steady hand and clear unbiased vision of a Dan Rather because frankly it stunk worse than a... than a used diaper filled with... Indian food.

(How am I doing so far? It's not too often the masses are granted access to the straight, un-objectified raw opinions of a veteran journalist like this, so enjoy it while you can. Say, have I gotten one of those Instalanches the blog-spewers are always jabbering on about yet? Actually, we should really be asking Mr. Lanche if he's yet had the honor of one of my patented Insta-Rathers instead! Ok, let's get back to the movie.)

Now, you know I'd rip out my spleen with rusty pliers if it would help me give you even the tiniest extra dribble of my authentic journalistic insight into the inner workings of this film. Sadly, however, I won't be able to comment perfectly on everything in the movie because the group I had the misfortune of viewing it with continually ruined all the important parts for me by howling with inappropriate laughter, like a bunch of hyenas on LSD -- take my word for it, Uncle Dan knows a fair amount about LSD. But I just think it shows how the American appreciation for drama has just shriveled away right along with the attention span of this Empty Vee generation.

My bottom line: the movie was dramatically uneven. It had huge plot holes, the writing in places flakier than Aunt Mathilda's buttermilk biscuits. But it was also less accurate than the boys in the men's room down at Gillie's Tavern around closing time on half-price beer night. And even I can tell you, flaky but inaccurate is no way to sell a message these days.

I will give the flick partial credit; it did make a few astute observations. It did a good job of illustrating the key principle of success in lead-anchor-journalism: it's not about being the smartest -- no sirree Bob -- it's about making sure absolutely nobody works a story harder than you and gets away with it.

The movie clearly pegged the importance of sexual magnetism in a lead anchor. It showed that a lead anchor has to be well-rounded: able to sing and play jazz flute, while still devoting the heavy workout time needed to keep the guns fully pumped.

And, tragically, the movie showed the harsh reality of the anchor life. One controversial moment -- be it merely reading a little typo like "F*** you, San Diego" off the teleprompter or exposing the flawed service record of a presidential candidate -- and the rabid masses will turn on you quicker than a crack whore on a satisfied customer who simply forgot his wallet in his other pants.

But for every little scrap this stinker got right, it screwed the pooch ten different ways from Wednesday. Fatal flaw. Not good.

Dogs, even the faithful dogs of lead anchors, cannot speak English. It is astonishing that any movie purporting to take a serious look at the world of journalism would even dream of trying to pass such obviously fraudulent scenarios off as realistic. If only they'd had the good sense to consult with Dan Rather, but it's pointless now setting the hunting hounds on a piece of fried chicken.

And as much as this movie tries to pretend serious journalism is nothing more than having really, really great hair and reading exactly what's written on the teleprompter, it's not. It's so much more, like repeating whatever the producer's voice whispers in your earpiece while still continuing to read the teleprompter -- and baby, that's art.

Furthermore, no self-respecting lead anchor would ever, EVER risk his position by missing a broadcast just because his dog was drop-kicked off a bridge by an angry Hells Angel upset about having his motorbike destroyed by a carelessly discarded burrito. The movie's just not realistic.

But the film's most important mistake is that a real-life lead anchor would be constitutionally incapable of injecting himself into the story of the birth of a panda cub, just so he can save the life of his former co-anchor and erstwhile cuddle monkey -- even if she is purtier than one of Cousin Dorothy's black velvet Schnauzer paintings. It just isn't done.

So, in the end, can I recommend this movie to viewers? Well, it's like my Pappy always said, "It's like a porcupine: you don't want one in bed with you, but if you happen to be trapped in a collapsed West Virginia mineshaft for a few days and you've got a heavy pair of work gloves with you then those little varmints make for some good eatin'."


There are some who are complaining about the minute details of precisely who did or did not star in this film, whether it was John Belushi as I reported, or some Johnny-come-lately Farrelly brother. But all the whining in the world doesn't address the fact that the major thrust of my review remains unchallenged, and still might be true. While I have not yet been able to authenticate John Belushi's starring role to the 110% level of confidence I generally expect of myself, still, no one has yet provided any persuasive evidence to the contrary, other than a bunch of useless "weblinks."

So carp on, rant loggers. Carp on.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: