Will Ferrell Takes on ‘70s-style TV News

Now in theaters: Anchorman, King Arthur, The Clearing and De-Lovely.

Anchorman

I was there, back in the early 1970s, when an anchorperson said on the air: "The pope today beautified a caramelize nun."

And I was there when an anchorman forgot his name. His initials scrolled by on the last line of the TelePrompTer, and he couldn't remember what they stood for. Other than that, any other resemblance between Will Ferrell and any actual anchorman who has ever been on television is probably true.

Ferrell is Ron Burgundy, a disco-era local TV anchorman from San Diego who cares more about his teeth than what comes out of his mouth. Even the East German judge would give this performance a 10, with special kudos to Steve Carell as the TV weatherman with a self-confessed IQ of 48.

Christina Applegate plays the aggressive journalist who tries to become the first woman on Ferrell's all-male news team. That's what happens. I won't call it a story. There isn't a plot.This is a Saturday Night Live sketch stretched to feature length. There's no ending.

Ferrell is the latest in a long line of Saturday Night Live comics — from Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi to Eddie Murphy to Adam Sandler — to make the transition to movie superstar.

But come on, even back in the '70s we didn't really wear big hair and mustaches and bad suits. Did we? Grade: B

King Arthur

Unfortunately, if you want the "happily ever after" for these knights, you'll have to go out and rent Camelot. This version of King Arthur ends before that happens. The Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot love triangle has been lanced.

This Jerry Bruckheimer movie purports to tell the true story of King Arthur. Many think he's just a myth. This story is based on archaeological evidence, as we're told when the movie starts, which might be Hollywood-speak for "the script sinks like a rock." You'll recognize the characters' names, but there's nothing chivalrous about this Sir Galahad. Merlin is not even a magician, although if he were, he'd make his part disappear. Imagine Braveheart with dark lighting and no Mel Gibson.

A historical point bears mentioning: This era was called the Dark Ages because Rome fell and classical learning would be all but lost for 1,000 years, not because the sun didn't shine.

The only reason we care about Arthur is because of the legends. Without 'em, and with no American stars, the only reason I can think of why we'd want to see this movie is if it were terrific. Merlin! Where are you when we need you? Grade: C. The Clearing

It's great to see Robert Redford back on the screen in The Clearing, a small, thoughtful, novel-like film about a kidnapping. It's much more about the characters than the caper, and the superb cast more than makes up for the overworked script. Grade: B

De-Lovely

What's so de-neat about De-lovely is the way it redefines the musical biography, the way Moulin Rouge and Chicago redefined the Hollywood musical.

Kevin Kline stars as Cole Porter and Ashley Judd is his wife and muse. Their elegant and indulgent lifestyle and deeply troubled relationship throw light on classics like "Anything Goes" and "Night and Day."

The conceit: The film begins after he dies, making a kind of a Cole Porter audition reel for St. Peter. Another terrific conceit: Contemporary music superstars, including Elvis Costello, Alanis Morissette and Natalie Cole, sing Cole Porter songs.

Oddly, Cheryl Crowe is the one contemporary singer whose performance doesn't work. But Kline's Oscar-worthy performance more than makes up for that. Grade: B+.

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