Robin’s Underrated Gems: Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie (2004)

Not too long ago, I wrote a column entitled “Ten Memorable Deleted Scenes” and briefly discussed how the invention of DVD has made it much easier for filmmakers to cut scenes out of their movie. It used to be a very painful decision for a director to delete a scene they really liked because there was little chance that anyone would ever get to see it, but nowadays, scenes can be cut out of a movie without much regret since they are likely to show up as a DVD special feature a couple of months down the road anyway. In recent years, many comedies have just relished the opportunity to include deleted material and outtakes on their DVD releases. In particular, films that have been directed or produced by the likes of Judd Apatow or Adam McKay are known for shooting tons of funny footage that never gets used because they feature casts who are gifted at comedic improvisation and ad-libbing. The DVD versions of such films as The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Talladega Nights and Get Him to the Greek are just loaded with hilarious material that never would have properly fit into the finished film, but since the filmmakers knew they could use them as a DVD special feature, they shot the footage anyway. However, would you believe that one comedy had enough funny deleted footage that they were able to assemble an ENTIRE MOVIE out of it?! Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is one of the funniest, most popular and quotable comedies of the past decade and while the filmmakers have always nixed the idea of making a sequel to the film, an unofficial “sequel” already does exist. When Anchorman was originally released on DVD, it also came out in a gift set that was packaged together with Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie, which is indeed a movie that consists entirely of lost footage. Does this experiment work as a standalone film? Not really. Is it funny as hell? I think clips like this would indicate that the answer is a resounding “yes”!

Even though it consists entirely of unused footage from Anchorman, a lot of tinkering has been done to pass Wake Up, Ron Burgundy off as a “sequel”. Major gaps in the plot are covered up by the frequent usage of voice-over narration, which is required to construct a coherent narrative out of what is essentially a hodgepodge of scenes. The concept of patching together a bunch of random footage and using voice-over to connect everything together was a popular trick amongst B-movie distributors in the 1950s and 60s and lead to some of the worst movies ever made, such as The Creeping Terror and Monster A-Go Go. However, in Wake Up, Ron Burgundy, this approach is done in a very tongue-in-cheek fashion (such as a moment where the narrator stops in mid-sentence to answer his cell phone) and they have no pretensions about acting like this is a legitimate movie. The plot, such as it is, continues the adventures of the Channel 4 news crew: Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Champ Kind (David Koechner) and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell). Ron and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are together at the beginning of the film, but professional jealousy causes their relationship to fall apart. Much of the plot is just rehashed material from Anchorman, but what gave them the freedom to construct an entirely new movie was a major subplot that was completely excised from the original film. It involves a radical 1970s extremist group called “The Alarm Clock”, who are lead by the inept Paul Hauser (Kevin Corrigan) and his underlings, Kanshasha X (Maya Rudolph) , Malcolm Y (Chuck D) and Mouse (Tara Subkoff). The foursome rob banks while attempting to convey a political message that they haven’t quite figured out yet, and in this scene, they find much frustration when dealing with a cynical bank teller (Amy Poehler).

Wake Up, Ron Burgundy follows the same story arc as its predecessor as Ron is fired from his anchorman job and hits rock bottom until Veronica is kidnapped by “The Alarm Clock”, forcing Ron and the Channel 4 crew to launch a rescue mission. Of course, since the entire movie is assembled out of deleted and alternate scenes and outtakes, the narrative does not exactly flow smoothly and the voice-over is needed to fill in the gaps. For instance, since they probably didn’t have any alternate footage of the scene where Ron is fired by Channel 4, the narrator just simply tells us that Ron was fired. Some scenes here are complete repeats of scenes from Anchorman in which alternate takes are used, most notably the sequence where Ron and Champ are prank calling Veronica. The moments that make the least sense within the context of this story are the interaction between Ron and Veronica, because even though the narrator tells us that they are a couple at the beginning of the film, they clearly display the same awkward, antagonistic relationship that they had in Anchorman. But all the complaints about the messy and disjointed plot are pretty pointless and even though the finished product barely qualifies as a real “movie”, Wake Up, Ron Burgundy still delivers more laughs that 90 % of the comedies out there. Quite simply, when the characters of Ron, Brian, Champ and Brick interact with each other, it’s pretty much impossible for them not to be a laugh riot. For instance, I’d rank this scene involving Brick and a “falafel hot dog” to be just as funny, if not more funny, than anything in Anchorman.

It really says something about the comedic talents of the people who worked on Anchorman when the scenes they DIDN’T EVEN USE are so much funnier than anything in the entire filmography of, say, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. In an amusing piece of irony, the DVD version of Wake Up, Ron Burgundy, a movie consisting entirely of deleted scenes, contains its OWN set of deleted scenes has a special feature! This film contains a number of scenes that wouldn’t have fit well into the original cut of Anchorman, but are quite funny to watch on their own, so I really can’t fault the creativity of trying to edit them together into their own story. In addition, it’s fun to see many recognizable actors here who had their roles completely deleted from the original Anchorman, including Kevin Corrigan, Chuck D, Maya Rudolph, Tara Subkoff, Amy Poehler, Kate Walsh, Stephen Root, M.C. Gainey, Chad Everett (in an hilarious role as Ron’s creepy nudist mentor, Jess Moondragon) and Justin Long, who plays the rebellious teenage son (only referenced to and kept off-screen in Anchorman) of station manager Ed Harken (Fred Willard). It would pretty much be impossible to assign Wake Up, Ron Burgundy a star rating. As an overall movie, you couldn’t really rate it very high because it’s so cobbled together and doesn’t flow very smoothly. However, when it comes to delivering 92 straight minutes of solid laughs, Wake Up, Ron Burgundy more than delivers the goods. Besides, since it was packaged together with the DVD version of Anchorman, it’s not like the distributors ever tried to mislead the consumer and sell it as a standalone movie. As far as I know, Wake Up, Ron Burgundy has never been released on DVD individually and may not be easily available for purchase these days, but fans are advised to track it down. If you’re not a fan of the original Anchorman, then this effort will probably not appeal to you, but it should easily satisfy all Ron Burgundy supporters. The way I look at it, anything that allows you to spend 90 extra minutes with a bunch of hilarious characters who always make you laugh is a very worthwhile effort, no matter what the circumstances.

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