Will Ferrell has been one of the biggest breakout successes of the Saturday Night Live cast from the last 15 years. He was on the show for 7 seasons, from 1995 to 2002, and managed to spin his unique brand of blowhard humor first into bit parts in other people's comedies and then transforming into his own production juggernaut. The prolific comedian has had a series of hits and misses over the years, and had his share of cash-grabs, but his style has been one of the defining factors of 21st-century comedy. Ferrell is the one who set the standard for characters who believe they are unstoppable, and forge ahead with their crazy ideas with unquenchable fury, not realizing they aren't nearly as awesome as they think. His comedy is absurdist, it is awkward, and at its best, hilarious.
This summer, Ferrell is going for it again, starring in The Other Guys with Mark Wahlberg. To capitalize on this, and also probably to remind audiences how funny he can be after duds like Blades of Glory and Land of the Lost, the folks at SNL have done a repackaging of the earlier Best of Will Ferrell compilation discs and also put together a third one. Saturday Night Live: Best of Will Ferrell - Volume Three is another strong collection of some of the performer's best moments and best characters, and this one is not just limited to skits from his time as a cast member, but also draws from his return stints as guest host of the sketch comedy series.
One thing I'm reminded of watching these bits again is how far out on the emotional edge Ferrell sometimes takes his characters. While Anchorman Ron Burgundy or his Talladega Nights character Ricky Bobby--or on this DVD, his portrayal of Robert Goulet or Swiss superspy Luxury--are men at the top of their field who have been spoiled by their success, the actor also has a tendency to play characters who experience a bitter pain from failure. In skits included here, for instance, he plays a father who gets no respect at home and is probably lying about how much he gets at the office, and his anger and disappointment boils up in such explosive fury, it crosses all the way over into uncomfortably hysterical. Hell, even what was maybe his tail-end return as George W. Bush this time has the flop sweat of deflated hubris. At the same time, we are reminded that Ferrell can also play it sweet thanks to a fantastic "Cheerleaders" entry with Cheri Oteri.
That's probably the most satisfying pleasure of these "greatest hits" packages. Saturday Night Live: Best of Will Ferrell - Volume Three gives us the comedian's full range in one contained space. It's easy to forget there are so many different facets to Will Ferrell when he's busy cranking out movies that cast him as yet another deluded, macho sports figure. The full list of skits on this DVD are as follows:
* "Bush Endorsement Cold Open" - George W. Bush starts a show by forcing his endorsement on John McCain (Darrell Hammond) and Sarah Palin (Tina Fey).
* "Theater Monologue" - Farrell as host sharing his serious dramatic side.
* "Goulet's New Bag" - The lounge singer sells ringtones and Goulet-Head cell phones.
* "Celebrity Jeopardy" - Guests include Bill Cosby (Kenan Thompson), Sharon Osbourne (Amy Poehler), and, of course, Sean Connery (Hammond).
* "The Lawrence Welk Show" - Ferrell as a singer who runs afoul of Kristen Wiig's mutated sister from the singing siblings from the Finger Lakes.
* "Cheerleaders - Chess" - Cheri Oteri and Ferrell as the Spartan Cheerleaders at a chess club tournament. The creative choreography and gung-ho performances make this a highlight of the set.
* "Family Dinner" - An awkward meal with angry father Ferrell, passive aggressive mother Ana Gasteyer, and adolescent daughter Sarah Michelle Gellar. (Why hasn't a post-Buffy Gellar booked a good comedy? She was always so funny on SNL.)
* "NBA on TNT" - A parody of aggressive bottom-of-the-screen advertising with Ferrell as a sitcom character charming basketballer Charles Barkley (a very funny Kenan Thompson).
* "Inside the Actors Studio" - Ferrell's harsh skewering of James Lipton, this time with Kate Hudson playing Drew Barrymore. (Note: I believe this sketch was actually on volume 2, as well.)
* "Convention" - Ferrell all on his own as a performer at a disastrous corporate retreat.
* "Do You Like Luxury?" - A marvelously absurd and daringly dry skit with Ferrell as a spy trying to pick up Maya Rudolph in a bar.
* "Barbeque" - Perhaps best known as "Get off the damn shed!" Featuring guest star Mariel Hemingway.
Though the DVD box lists an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer, that's only partially true. This compilation has a combination of widescreen sketches and older full frame material. The full frame material is markedly lower in quality, not just in size, but in resolution. The older sketches have jagged lines and sometimes faded color. None of the shifts are too jarring or harmful to the viewing experience, but it's too bad the producers couldn't make the full frame skits look slightly better.
The disc boasts a Dolby 5.1 soundtrack, and I have to be honest, there isn't really much here to demand it. This is basic TV quality audio, and audio recorded live no less, so not a lot of effects that need the heightened sound quality.
Closed Captioning is also available for the deaf and hearing impaired.
There are two sketches that were performed and filmed at dress rehearsal, but that were cut from the final show. One is a bit with the Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch "lovers" characters out on a camping trip, and the other stars Ferrell as a dorky ghost who can't get snooping kids from looking at his lame personal effects, reading his diary, or listening to his demo tape. It's fairly funny, though honestly there was likely no great loss in its getting cut from the broadcast. I always liked the lovers, though.
Green Day performs their song "East Jesus Nowhere" in an unaired segment featuring Ferrell on cowbell.
Finally, there is a photo gallery and a credits menu.
Highly Recommended. Saturday Night Live: Best of Will Ferrell - Volume Three is another nicely priced collection of clips for Will Ferrell fans. It features strong material and provides lots of laugh. A good little slab of comedy to have in your collection.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with JoŽlle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent project is the comedy series Spell Checkers, again with Jones and artist Nicolas Hitori de. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.