“What a glutton for punishment you are,” my colleague Mr. Greydanus said to me after I posted my semi-defense of Will Ferrell’s Anchorman at CT Movies this week.
And indeed, I’m anticipating that CT readers will be coming after me with torches when they see that I’ve given two and a half stars to a film as lowbrow and innuendo-heavy as Anchorman.
But I’m no good as a film critic if I’m not honest, and Anchorman had me sore with laughing. Sure, it sometimes lapses into the most sophomoric and crass of humor, but there is much that is better than that. (What happened to that spectacular collision with the file-cabinet drawer that was in the commercial? It’s not in the film!)
Frankly, I’m inclined to enjoy a movie that takes easy pot shots at the kind of arrogance and vanity we see in the media, especially in the news.
Another friend, Mr. Chattaway, reminded me of this G.K. Chesterton passage that may not apply directly to Anchorman, but encapsulates the same general idea…
The time has come to protest against certain very grave perils in the cinema and the popular films. I do not mean the peril of immoral films, but the peril of moral ones. I have, indeed, a definite objection to immoral films, but it is becoming more and more difficult to discuss a definite morality with people whose very immorality is indefinite. And, for the rest, merely lowbrow films seem to me much more moral than many of the highbrow ones. Mere slapstick pantomime, farces of comic collapse and social topsy-turvydom, are, if anything, definitely good for the soul. To see a banker or broker or prosperous business man running after his hat, kicked out of his house, hurled from the top of a skyscraper, hung by one leg to an aeroplane, put into a mangle, rolled out flat by a steam-roller, or suffering any such changes of fortune, tends in itself rather to edification; to a sense of the insecurity of earthly things and the folly of that pride which is based on the accident of prosperity. But the films of which I complain are not those in which famous or fashionable persons become funny or undignified, but those in which they become far too dignified and only unintentionally funny. . . .