Truthfully? The first time I saw Anchorman, I was disappointed. In the year that had passed since it was first released, it had gathered quite the reputation. And when I watched it, I just couldn’t see any of the qualities I’d heard praised. I didn’t even laugh that much.
But, here we are: Anchorman is my 45th favourite film of all time, and a contender for the most watched film on this entire list.
How did we get from there to here? It wasn’t the film itself, exactly. It was the adoption of its jokes, quotables and – best of all – approach to comedy. It was drunken rewatches and festival-campsite chants. That sense of being in-the-know that I’ve mentioned hurting my enjoyment of Spinal Tap worked entirely in its favour.
It’s notable that the DVD extras and the outtakes over the credits (rarely a source of pleasure in any non-Pixar film) played an equal role in this. ‘Great Odin’s Raven!’ or the Afternoon Delight video hold just as much currency as the best jokes of Anchorman itself.
So could it have been any film? Perhaps. This place could easily be filled by Team America (which is a funnier film, I reckon) or at a stretch Napoleon Dynamite (which is much less funnny, but better crafted, and just odder). All three films dropped at about the right time, 2004, the year I started Sixth Form.
But it was Anchorman my friends adopted, at school, and it was a film that retained its value with new friends met at university. We were immediately speaking the same language. As a film that wholeheartedly celebrates the ridiculous, it immediately enabled that aforementioned attitude to humour. Anchorman gave us license to just try things: say silly stuff and see what gets a laugh.
And this is me accepting that Anchorman and I have probably had our day, like college sweethearts growing off in separate directions. If I was watching Anchorman for the first time now, I’d tire of hearing jokes that had been worn out for me, second-hand. It was a matter of timing, a fling that could never grow into a lifelong relationships.
Those jokes we used to laugh at together have been adopted by the world, in the inevitable flipside of that quotable, gang-forming quality. It’s hard to feel in-the-know when ‘I love lamp’ has ‘don’t call me Shirley’-level recognition. Nowadays, Anchorman fails the basic litmus test of cool: if your film has been quoted to death on Radio 1, it is dead. After all, who’d want to be in any gang that would have Fearne Cotton as a member?