40×40 Wake Up, Ron Burgundy! (2004)

Directed by Adam McKay.

“It seems our youngest, Chris, was joyriding with a sheet of acid and a speargun.”

Why Did I Get This?

Well, the sticker on the front of the double-disc box set suggests I picked this up when a shop called Replay was closing round the corner from where I used to work. Probably would’ve been around 10-12 years after Anchorman was first released, during which time I’d revisited the original in bits and pieces on many occasions (usually during late-night channel surfing sessions to the time during periods of insomnia), but never really sought it out.

I remember being a huge fan of it on first release though, and whether you love it or hate it there’s an element of charm about the silly improvisation throughout the film that tends to force everyone involved to be at the top of their game (or at least outdo each other before the other cracks up).

Never really read much about Wake Up… though, other than it’s a (barely) feature length movie made up of a subplot dropped from the original. Honestly, I don’t think it bodes terrifically well, but let’s give it a go, eh?

The Late Review

As always, the Late Review will go into detail about the film from start to finish, so if you’re looking to avoid potential spoilers, scroll down to the next heading.

Legendary San Diego anchorman Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), woos his new colleague Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), enjoys booze and shenanigans with his news team (Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and David Koechner), and encounters a gang of pacifist terrorist bank robbers (Maya Rudolph, Tara Subkoff, Kevin Corrigan and Chuck D).

Silly as it is, the original Anchorman gave me hours of joy. I saw it with friends at the cinema, watched it with others on DVD, and the inherent quotability of the daft adlibs have lent themselves well to pub chats for the better part of two decades. I’d always been curious to see Wake Up, but naturally cautious as I knew it was largely made up of scraps from the cutting room floor – however, I’d hoped they would be decent gags and subplots that were trimmed for time.

When the opening narration of this movie proudly exclaims that this story is “the chaff from the wheat”, I laughed, assuming it was a joke at the movie’s own expense. In fairness, it was more of a chuckle than a laugh, maybe incorporating a metaphorical tip of the cap to the filmmakers for acknowledging the expectations of the viewer.

I try to find something to be positive about in every Late Review, but in all honesty, that was the only laugh for a while.

What followed was essentially an extended introduction to a character anyone viewing the film would already know and, frankly, cut for a reason. There were also a bunch of little ad libs that I’m pretty sure made it into the final product too (the ridiculous vocal warm-ups ahead of a live news broadcast), so while I expected to be familiar with the material, I didn’t expect it to feel so flat.

Once the politically-motivated bank robbers turn up, we get a new angle which is initially promising, but turns out to be as confused as the group’s reasons for robbing banks. There’s a shouty one, a blunt one, a near-mute one and a stoner ideologist, and the gang serves as a way for Veronica’s career to build while Ron’s wanes.

He gets fired again, by the way, and immediately falls into despair (though not a glass case of emotion, which was a better gag), drinking himself silly in a bar that doesn’t have Danny Trejo as a bartender before rushing into the bathroom and returning immaculate and summoning his news team.

The team fare a little better than our leads and the new characters, in my opinion. There’s a neat callback to Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd, somehow looking older here than he does now), and his Sex Panther aftershave, while Champ Kind (David Koechner), gives an explanation of what he understands ‘a woman’s time of the month’ to be that got a laugh out of me. It’s a lot funnier than the extended scene where he declares his unrequited love for Ron in an awkward car journey, anyway.

Brick’s stupidity is played up again, and I felt sorry for Steve Carell munching on whatever was supposed to be a used coffee filter. Largely due to Carell’s delivery, the biggest genuine laugh of the 89 minutes came in the middle of a scene when the News Team is plotting in a van and in the middle of their discussion Brick breaks the fourth wall and announces with joy “Hey look, a camera!”, completely unnoticed by the rest of the team. It’s such a simple, throwaway gag, but beautifully played.

The plot was never really the point of Anchorman, and it’s even less important with Wake Up…, although I would add that this felt like a much longer film than it was. At least with something like This Is Spinal Tap, the 90 minutes of cut scenes mostly offered something new, but here we see the same jokes played out again and again, long past the point of being funny.

The team is laughing, and Ron narrates the laughter, causing it to reduce, which he also narrates, until Brian mentions it. Heh.

It’s a big emotional moment, so Ron explains that, outlining exactly where the story has taken him and how he’s changed as a man until Veronica stops him. Hmm.

Ron’s forced to deliver a hostage video but explains at length beforehand that he can’t work without a teleprompter, then gets in front of the camera and makes minute after minute of absurd adlibbed noises and fragments of words in unusual voices while we cut to several different characters explaining what’s happening then return back to him doing absurd adlibbed noises and fragments of words in unusual voices and oh my God how is it not over already?

Sorry, positive stuff, positive stuff.

Fred Willard looks restrained and a bit tired, but gives good ‘frustrated dad’ action, and Justin Long pops up for a minute as his tearaway son for a confrontation.

Amy Poehler knocks it out of the park as a bank teller whose refusal to simply hand over cash at gunpoint without exploring the robbers’ ideals, methods and choice of disguise.

Laura Kightlinger’s Donna heaps increasingly inappropriate praise on Veronica and gets a bigger laugh in about 90 seconds than the movie-long Champ/Ron unrequited love plot.

The News Team’s background in Vietnam helps them rescue Veronica, and we see Brick’s true leadership skills.

There’s a fantastic background gag in a scene where the News Team is lost and considering cannibalism.

Paul Rudd does an excellent pratfall.


I had fairly low expectations going into this, and I hate to be too negative about a film. A lot of work goes into making them, it’s a miracle any ever get released, and that Anchorman exists at all is a good thing.

There are some good if not great laughs peppered throughout Wake Up, Ron Burgundy, but it really does feel like a cynical throw together to exploit the daft but delightful little world created by the ‘proper’ film. It feels like much of the excised stuff hit the cutting room floor for a good reason, and while I’m glad I’ve seen it, I’m glad I bought it cheap and I would be surprised it I went back to revisit it.

I’ve heard interviews with comedy writers who bemoan Anchorman as the film that started the craze of filming one-shots of comedians delivering take after take of adlib then stitching them together to make scenes and eventually a finished movie.

I’ll stick by that process in moderation, and I do think it works when done well but not at the expense of the movie, but comparing Wake Up, Ron Burgundy with the tighter, funnier Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy is the best way to show just how different the outcome can be.

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