Friday, February 06, 2009

Did Critics Welcome Ferrell's Final Night?

Did Critics Welcome Ferrell's Final Night?

Last evening, Will Ferrell made his Broadway debut in his limited run show You're Welcome America. A Final Night With George W Bush, which opened at the Cort Theatre.

Directed by Adam McKay, Ferrell's show spoofs the eponymous 43rd President. The comedy features Michael Delaney, Pia Glenn, Adam Mucci and Patrick Ferrell.

Most critics' reviews rolled out the welcome mat for Ferrell with one notable exception.

Praising the show as "a cathartic, almost cleansing farewell," David Rooney of Variety claims that the show never descends into mean-spirited diatribe: "Ferrell delivers what's basically an extended 'SNL' political sketch grafted out of the easiest target in comedy.... [I]t's the kind of incisive 'SNL' sketch we haven't seen much of lately -- a fast-paced, well-sustained near-90 minutes that's consistently funny and invigoratingly rude.... [I]t's in the more fanciful satirical detours that Ferrell soars highest."

Proclaiming "mission accomplished," Joe Dziemianowicz of New York's Daily News awards four out of five stars: "Getting to see this comic whiz in the flesh is a big treat, and the fact that Ferrell has been able to squeeze so many fresh yuks from the beleaguered Bush legacy speaks to his always off-kilter, sometimes raunchy, imagination.... If some sequences run out of steam, another laugh is looming just around the bend."

Calling Ferrell "terrific -- sly and subtle, even brave," Newsday's Linda Winer offers a critical welcome: "(The show) has arrived right on time for both silly fun and smart summing-up of an epoch the country just voted overwhelmingly to change. Foolish comedy is deftly mixed with tough political satire in what is not, strictly speaking, a solo."

Surprised that "the ex-president turns out to be a hell of a lot of fun to hang with," Frank Scheck for New York Post awards three out of four stars: "Granted, the generally lowbrow humor of You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W Bush is hardly cutting-edge political satire. Basically a (nearly) solo extended sketch, it's theatrical comfort food for Broadway audiences who want to see one of their favorite comic actors live."

Noting that "Sometimes it’s really funny, and sometimes it sort of sags. I laughed, I yawned," The New York Times' Ben Brantley offers a mixed assessment comparing it to Ferrell's more middling movies: "[T]he actor provides a critic-proof demonstration of the art that has endeared him to millions of fans around the world: the art of acting stupid, shrewdly, for fun and profit. Some might say that this is a talent shared by the man Mr. Ferrell impersonates. But the George W. Bush of You’re Welcome America ... is just stupid, without the shrewdness.... Mr. Ferrell’s Bush is less exact imitation than loopy extrapolation. And the show feels freshest when he goes off on surreal tangents that transport his blundering hero into the ether of pure absurdism."

Concluding that "Ferrell's mission ought to have been aborted," USA Today's Elysa Gardner pans the show with one and a half stars out of four: "It's tough to say who should be more offended by You're Welcome America. A Final Night With George W Bush: the 43rd president's most ardent admirers or his most rigorous critics.... No one familiar with Ferrell's work would expect in-depth political satire. He tries instead to provoke through tastelessness and goofy outrageousness, practices that certainly have long and distinguished traditions in comedy. But Ferrell's shots both overreach and fail to sting."

Perhaps to Brantley's point, this very limited run show is critic-proof from the get-go, so it appears that most of them just sat back, relaxed and let 'er roll. I'll be taking in a performance over the next couple of weeks and will let you know if I shared their general enthusiasm.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 07 February, 2009, Blogger Dale said...

I was wondering how the show would go over. I like Will Ferrell but he's usually not quite as funny as I want him to be.


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