*. Nothing dates like comedy. I guess this movie was kind of funny in 2004. It did nearly $100 million box office on a $26 million budget. Ten years later I can find scarcely anything funny in it at all. Maybe Paul Rudd showing off his cologne collection and Ferrell spraying his own face with mace. Aside from that, I can see places where it’s trying. Sometimes trying very hard. But it’s not funny.
*. This isn’t hating on Will Ferrell or any of the rest of the cast. Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Christina Applegate, David Koechner, Fred Willard . . . they’re all talented comic players who are given nothing to work with. Jack Black is a funny guy, and even looks funny as a biker in a WW2 helmet, but does he say or do anything funny in his one scene? There are twice as many laughs in any half-hour episode of The Office as there are In this movie. Come to think of it, there are more laughs in an average episode of Mad Men then there are here.
*. Everything just seems to get dragged on far too long — and there was a sequel! We get the jokes quickly and then they keep banging away on them, upping the ante in an attempt to make us like them more. It’s a bit funny that Burgundy is a jazz flute player, but his big number goes on forever. Ron talking to Baxter isn’t funny but they keep at it. Ron’s anguish over losing Baxter isn’t funny, and his howls in the phone booth continue well past the point where they become annoying. The “eating cat shit” skit wasn’t remotely funny in the first place and it goes on and on and on.
*. Now dragging something out can make something that’s not funny in itself into something funny. But I don’t see that happening anywhere here. Ron talking to Baxter isn’t funny at first and after a few minutes of it, it still isn’t. And so it goes.
*. This may be why the trailer is so much funnier than the movie itself. And that may not be unintentional. Given how necessary it is for movies to hit the ground running, with huge drop-offs in box office after just the opening weekend, the art of the trailer has become all important. But here, cutting the jokes down to the bone really helps. They work better than they do in the movie.
*. It’s a process of abbreviation. When did having a lot of “quotable lines” become the chief criteria for judging a comedy? And yet that seems to be the standard today. Indeed, it may have shrunk even further. Those quotable lines have become Internet memes, sketches have been downgraded to gifs. How many times have you seen the clip of Ron saying “Boy, that escalated quickly!” brought up on message boards and in comment threads? And in that context it’s often much funnier than it is in the movie, where it’s almost unnoticeable.
*. It may also be that the characters are bigger than the movie they’re in. Ron Burgundy went on to become an icon: a throwback to the ’70s, he nevertheless fit in well with the twenty-first century “bro” culture of useless and clueless males. In some of the extras on the DVD we see him walking into present-day situations without missing a beat. “He” also went on to write a book (Let Me Off at the Top: My Classy Life and Other Musings). And again much of this is just as funny if not funnier than anything we see here.
*. This contributes to the sense of a movie that is spilling over the edges. The trailer I mentioned earlier contains a lot of gags not in the film, and they even run a blooper reel with the closing credits. They just had all this stuff they had to do something with.
*. The blooper-reel credits is something that seems to have caught on (they do the same thing at the end of Horrible Bosses), and I can see the point: leaving the audience with a smile and chuckle while reminding them of some of the best parts of the movie they just watched. But it seems like a trick to me.
*. What I mean is that I just can’t help thinking that the cast and creators are having a lot more fun with this than I am, and probably know it. This is a feeling reinforced by the unbearable DVD commentary, that begins with Adam McKay and Will Ferrell trading dull obscenities for nearly twenty minutes. They admit it’s pathetic, but then laugh over how they’re cracking each other up. They’re funny guys, so you should laugh when they do. But how can we when they’re laughing at us?