Will Ferrell has used his notoriety well as one of the leading SNL cast members of his era and turned it into a remarkable movie career. Over the past 10 years he has clearly become one of the most exposed and hard-working comedians in Hollywood.
Dreamworks Home Entertainment has now prepared his 2004 movie "Anchorman" for release in high definition. Interestingly now, it seems the film also marked the rise of producer Judd Apatow as one of the driving forces behind today's most notorious comedies such as "40 Year Old Virgin," "Superbad" and others.
In "Anchorman" Will Ferrell plays Ron Burgundy, a 70s television news anchor in San Diego, riding high on a wave of self-adulation, chauvinism and disrespect for anyone but himself. Around himself he has gathered team of dimwitted newscasters – Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Champ Kind (David Koechner) and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) – and despite their universally brutal ineptitude they manage to rake in the highest ratings in San Diego.
But just when he thought he had it all, change is in the air. The world asks for diversity and the network brings in Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) as a segment journalist. Threatened by the mere existence of a woman in a news room Burgundy and his team immediately try everything in their power to run her down and get rid of her, but before you know it, Ron actually falls in love with her - for the first time in his life. Under the surface however he still sees her more as a sex object than a real woman with career goals, and when one day he shows up late for his newscast, he learns that the network put Veronica in front of the camera and made her the first female news anchor ever! What an outrage – and very possibly the end of Ron's career.
Now available on high definition for the first time, Dreamworks Home Entertainment is presenting the movie in a 1080p widescreen transfer that restores the movie's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Being such a new film and coming from Dreamworks my expectations were quite high for this release but I have to admit that the video presentation on this disc is less than stellar. The image is overly soft and severely lacks in detail many times. Skin tones are washed out and flat, never creating the kind of three-dimensional depth we can find on high end transfers. For the most part the transfer looks more like an upconverted DVD transfer than a true high definition presentation I am sad to report. The film's 70s color scheme is reproduced nicely and the image also has good depth but it is mostly the lack of definition that makes this presentation so average.
The disc features a Dolby Digital Plus audio track that serves its purpose well. The film is never overly aggressive with its surround usage and music also plays an understated role for the most part and as such it is hardly a challenging track. Dialogue is well integrated and always understandable.
The HD-DVD version contains all the extras found previously on the DVD release of the film, kicking off with a commentary track featuring Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay. The track makes for some great spontaneous moments without losing the information value. Fans of Ferrell definitely should check this commentary out.
35 minutes worth of bloopers and deleted scenes are also included on the disc, but they are of varying quality. Some are funny and entertaining, others much less so.
A series of 'Ron Burgundy' features are also included, such as his interviews at the MTV Movie Awards, his ESPN audition, and much more. All of them are actually quite funny and particularly the live interview in front of an audience shows Ferrell's prowess as an impromptu comedian.
The featurette 'Making of Anchorman' and the music video 'Afternoon Delight' nicely round out the release.
'Anchorman' is a pretty good Will Ferrell comedy. It has some gross-out elements and it is chauvinistic through and trough, but that's part of the fun. It never really dips into the toilet and also has some moments of comedic genius that always made Ferrell such a memorable SNL performer. Add to that Christina Applegate's great performance and cameos by countless fellow comedians and you have a film that is thoroughly enjoyable. Too bad only that the high definition presentation falls so short of expectation.