Sunday 5 September 2010

Obscurity Files #22 - Wake Up, Ron Burgundy

Obscurity Files aims to put the spotlight onto a series of films that time and audiences have otherwise forgotten. With Steve Carell and Paul Rudd currently starring in the new comedy Dinner For Schmucks, I thought I'd take a look at them in the lost Anchorman story. Today it's Wake Up, Ron Burgundy.
More after the jump...

When Will Ferrell recently announced that the proposed Anchorman sequel had been cancelled, you'd have heard a lot of people shout "but there already is an Anchorman sequel! It's called Wake Up, Ron Burgundy!".

Pieced together from all the left over bits from Anchorman, this story is billed as a sequel, but is more accurately another story that runs concurrently with the original film. Being from improvisational comedy backgrounds, the cast were known to make a lot of stuff up whilst filming. So much in fact, that they had to excise a whole bank robbery storyline that provides most of the plot for this tale. The opening voice over puts it best when he says...
"Some stories are lost to us because they don't test well with recruited audiences, or because a movie is too long, and the story must be cut for time. This is one of those tales. This is the chaff from the wheat, the skim from the milk, the pudding from the all-you-can-eat lobster buffet, and the surgeon guy from Prince and the Revolution. This is the lost movie "Wake Up, Ron Burgundy." 
In many ways this is a highlight reel of the deleted scenes, and it's a bit of a clunky storyline sewed together by the voice over man. Surprisingly, they've not crossed over any footage from the original, using alternate takes and wholly new scenes to create this strange little movie. When San Diego falls victim to a series of bank robberies attributed to the radical group known as The Alarm Clock, Ron uses all of his journalistic knowhow to track the group down; namely door-stepping innocent old men and beating the truth out of them. But hey, at least he does it with style.

Bringing down television news becomes part of The Alarm Clock's plan, but rebellion doesn't come cheap, hence the bank robberies. They're not quite as stupid as Ron and co, but they don't really know what they're fighting against. Their message is somewhat muddled, and Amy Poehler (in one of the films many cameos) is able to highlight their stupidity quite easily.

You can see why they chose to cut the Alarm Clock sub-plot, as it just wasn't necessary. I've no problem with it featuring here, otherwise there would have been nothing to hold the scenes together. There's not a lot of comedy from them, but they serve their purpose in tying together some new scenes. Wake Up, Ron Burgundy also features some startling revelations about one of the characters' love life. Sure, all of these guys share a special and close relationship, but Champ has a particular love for Ron, and can only keep it bottled up for so long.

I suppose the important question is, does this film justify its existence, or is it just the bastard remains of some editing room experiment? I'd say it does, due to at least three stand-out scenes with fantastically quotable dialogue. They didn't know they were going to be allowed to create this film from the off-cuts, so it must have been a really tough decision for what made it in the original cut. Somewhere out there, there's an alternate universe where people aren't saying "I'm in a glass case of emotion", or "I love lamp". Instead they're saying "Let's rip the lid off of it!", and "I am in love with Ron Burgundy!".

For years this film was unavailable in the UK, meaning curious fans would have to buy the Region 1 boxset. As anyone who bought that will testify, it was totally worth it. Luckily for you though, if you've not managed to see this little gem it's now available in the UK, and you can pick up the Anchorman double bill boxset for under a fiver.

As for the chances of an official Anchorman sequel, I honestly don't know if it's worth risking it. Will Ferrell has become startlingly hit and miss, and although I love Steve Carell in The Office, he's not fronted a truly outstanding comedy yet. These characters are a delight, and if they could work from a script as creative as the first film, then yes, perhaps it's worth a shot. Only problem is, they will probably have so much footage left over that they'll have to make another straight to DVD sequel, and the cycle starts all over again.

Save from obscurity? HELL YES.

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