As far as impersonations of former President George W. Bush go…well, there are quite a few who rank up at the top. Some are overly hokey or a little too hyper-exaggerated. Some work on superficial levels but don’t really grasp the essence of Bush’s nature. It’s a tough impression to pull off…but it’s Will Ferrell’s turn as Bush that struck the balance of reality and comedy. So it’s fitting that he gave the impersonation a final send off…with a stint on Broadway. While a live broadcast of the performance was delivered on HBO, those without the premium cable network have been unable to see the presentation…until now.
In his first-ever HBO special, superstar comedian/actor Will Ferrell (Anchorman, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) takes viewers on a sentimental journey through the life, legend, and legacy of the 43rd U.S President, portraying George W. Bush in this live performance from Broadway’s Cort Theater. It’s a night to remember as George W. Bush bids us farewell!
Obviously not being a fan of Bush helps this…well, I don’t really know what this is. An extended SNL skit I suppose. In any case if you disagreed with the former president or just thought he was a little dull, then you’ll likely guffaw and laugh heartily at what Ferrell has to say throughout the performance. While his portrayal of Bush likely ruffled a few feathers, it was a genuinely hilarious performance that surprisingly even had a bit of heart to it (heart that was followed up perfectly by a gradual joke that worked perfectly…but more on that later).
What worked most about the performance is just how much Ferrell seems to channel Bush. The mannerisms, the dialogue, the peppering of real life quotes into the performance…it all just added to the enjoyment of the production. While it was a bit dubious to think that Ferrell could pull it off for ninety minutes for eight straight weeks, I was genuinely surprised by what he offered up here. I mean it was a seriously funny performance…not just because it’s easy to laugh at the stupid things Bush did, but also just because it was such a hilarious production all around.
The dancing agent bit was a bit strange at first, but it provided a necessary distraction for the audience while Ferrell switched wardrobes. But it was Ferrell’s interaction with the audience that really helped drive the performance home. While the early debate he has with one of the audience members is staged (although it honestly didn’t feel too staged, which was interesting…until the second portion of it broke out, at least), the later segment where he gives everyone nicknames was just hilarious. I was kind of bummed that they didn’t show previous performances groups of nicknames, as I imagine that was something Ferrell did spontaneously each night.
What really made this worthwhile however was Ferrell’s moment of silence for those fallen due to the Iraq war. It was completely unexpected but it actually drove home the fact that Bush really wasn’t that bad of a guy…he just didn’t make the smartest decisions (or comments). I wondered how they’d get out of that scenario as it really didn’t seem like something they could just jump out of…but the addition of a ringing red phone just gradually broke the tension enough to for the audience to return to funny mode. More than anything else in the production I was impressed how Ferrel put a rather heavy issue in there and not have it come off as cheap or detrimental to the overall performance.
While it certainly helps to either be impartial or to dislike the former president to enjoy this production, it also helps if you’re a Ferrell fan. He throws in a few Ferrell-like attributes into the whole thing and if you don’t enjoy Ferrell then there’s a strong chance you won’t even look at this production with any kind of open mind. Thankfully I fall into the impartial and love Ferrell group so I just ate this one up. That segment where he was talking about his college days was absolutely hilarious…especially when he expounded on the “tons of muff” bit. Ridiculous…but hilarious.
Overall You’re Welcome America comes Recommended. Ferrell really did a solid job on this and it was a great way to end cap his portrayal as George W. Bush.
HBO sends out this in a standard clear amaray case with a double sided jacket and red cardboard o-ring cover. It’s a nice little presentation and actually reminds me of the Comedy Central DVDs that Paramount puts out in terms of packaging style and whatnot. In any case it’s a nice visual package, but nothing about the menus or video transfer really impress. Video is clean and clear and what you’d expect from a modern production and there’s really nothing ugly that crops up on screen (aside from the penis) and the DD2.0 audio delivers clean and clear dialogue throughout.
Road to Broadway (7:45)
Bush on Bush Interview (13:02)
It’s Time has Come of Being A Decider, America: True or False Game
It’s not a huge list and I half-hoped for a commentary with Ferrell…but the brief making-of and dual Bush interview pieces were pretty funny. The Bush Trivia was kind of a letdown, however, as it never really ends. I played through about 20 or 30 questions and it started to repeat on me. Disappointing.
In any case this is worth a Rental. I’m not sure if it’ll really be something you watch more than once…but it does include a digital copy so you can enjoy it on the go if you wish.
Will Ferrell: You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W Bush arrives on DVD on November 3rd.