Directed by Adam McKay, starring Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Fred Willard, Chris Parnell and Steve Carell.

Set in the mid-1970s, the harmless and mildly entertaining 'Anchorman' hearkens back to a time when men were men and women were merely decorative. As we are informed in ponderous tones during the introduction, it's "a time before cable, when the local anchorman reigned supreme, and only men were allowed to read the news".

Ron Burgundy, played with relish and a moustache by Will Ferrell, is a chauvinistic scotch-swilling, cigarette-puffing, litter-flinging San Diego anchorman. He's top dog in his own small empire, with a selection of sidekicks - anxious investigative reporter Brian (Rudd), vacant weatherman Brick (Carell) and obnoxious sports guy Champ (Koechner) - as dumb and as shallow as himself. All's right in their world, until station head Ed Harken (underused comedy veteran Willard) appoints a woman to the newsroom. Blonde ambition personified, Veronica Corningstone (Applegate) comes with her sights firmly set on Ron's position - while he's more concerned with every other sort of position. Cue the battle of the sexes, as feminism fights chauvinism and Veronica drags Ron and his boys kicking and screaming into the dawn of a new age.

As evinced by a great trailer plus the truly funny 'Afternoon Delight' video, Will Ferrell and Co are funny in small doses. Unfortunately the joke does pale somewhat when stretched over 90 minutes. The 1970s are ripe for the kind of send-up that 'Anchorman' does so well, poking fun at the tacky fashions and retro attitudes, but there are times when Ron's witlessness and mugging fall flat. A subplot involving a rumble with rival TV crews never really gets off the ground and seems more like an excuse to get Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller on the set. Other cameos include a demented, curly-haired Tim Robbins and Jack Black as a dog-kicking biker. 

While sometimes cruel and crude, 'Anchorman's filmmakers have too much affection for their characters to avoid descending to the level of the Farrelly brothers' lowest-common-denominator comedy. It may be hit and miss but there are still enough one-liners and laugh-out-loud moments to make sure this anchor doesn't hit rock bottom.

Caroline Hennessy