Masochistic readers who continually subject themselves to my inane rantings probably have noticed a pattern to the structure of my reviews, which usually begin with some sort of dull introduction about the material being tackled and its stars. I guess I can diverge from that formula here. If you don't watch Saturday Night Live, you probably won't be interested in this DVD. If you don't know who Will Ferrell is, you definitely won't be interested in this DVD. Ferrell had consistently been one of the most compelling reasons to watch Saturday Night Live since he snagged a slot on NBC's sketch comedy series in the mid-'90s, going on to be one of its most popular cast members. Earlier this year, SNL aired a compilation of Ferrell's best material, which is now being released on DVD, featuring the following bits:
So, I'm not blessed with whatever gift enables reviewers to summarize comedy sketches and make 'em sound the least bit appealing, but hopefully it's enough for SNL viewers to remember whatever it is I'm talking about. This set has a lot of my favorite characters (Goth Talk's Baron Nocturna being one notable exception), but in a few cases, it collects some of their weakest sketches. Bobbi and Marty have done twenty-two medleys, but one of the least memorable -- the seventeenth, from a special I half-remember -- is the one that's tossed onto this disc. The Robert Goulet, Jeopardy! , and Inside the Actor's Studio jabs are all pretty funny, but far from their best. Still, a lot of these sketches I've seen far too many times -- probably closing in on a half-dozen for "Behind the Music" and "Terrence Maddox" -- and they still manage to crack me up. I guess what I'm slowly lurching towards is that this DVD isn't really "The Best of Will Ferrell". It's "Some of Will Ferrell", and even at twice its 71 minute length, I'd probably make the same complaint. Many of Ferrell's fans caught this special when it debuted on NBC this past summer and know what to expect. It has a lot of funny moments, but not as many as I would've liked. Maybe Lion's Gate, SNL's home video distributor, felt the same way, and that's why they piled on a bunch of extras to give fans more of an incentive to snag this DVD. Ferrell's audition tape, a pair of appearances on Conan, a reel of outtakes, and a ditched sketch from a dress rehearsal are all included.
- Bobbi & Marty's Drug Awareness Medley: The middle-aged directors of the music department at Alta Dena Middle School use their gift of song to convince students to steer clear of drugs and other vices.
- Behind the Music - Blue Öyster Cult: Record producer Bruce Dickenson (Christopher Walken) has a fever...and the only prescription is more cowbell.
- Dissing Your Dog: After being tossed in the clink a few times, Dale Sturtevant has rechanneled his violent outbursts into sarcastic verbal assaults to train pets.
- Spartans Chess Tournament: Craig and Ariana show their typically grating school spirit at the Midwestern Regional Chess Tournament.
- The Coconut Bangers Ball: It's a Rap!: Robert Goulet, weary of hooligans who can't croon, dishes out hip-hop with his distinctive vocal stylings, bellowing a capella takes on tunes like the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Poppa".
- Brief Snippets, Mark One: Patriotism in a thong, trendy tiny cellphones, and a grossly overdue birth.
- Jeopardy!: Sean Connery, French Stewart, and Burt Reyno...I mean, Turd Ferguson torment Alex Trebeck and rob their charities of tens of thousands of dollars.
- Inside the Actors Studio: Host James Lipton discusses the craft of theatre and film with scrumtrulescent Match Game mainstay Charles Nelson Reilly (Alec Baldwin).
- Lucifer Songs: Milo (Garth Brooks) would sell his soul for a hit song, and Lucifer is more than happy to oblige...or, at least, try to...
- Brief Snippets, Mark Deux: Dubya rattles off the secrets of his success, Janet Reno dukes it out with Rudy Guliani, and Saddam, Clinton, and Monica explore the splendors of three-way calling.
- Space: The Infinite Frontier: Harry Caray, the voice of the Chicago Cubs, speaks with astrophysicist Kent Wuhler (Jeff Goldblum) about masses of incandescent gas, spare ribs, and Mad Cow disease.
- Hot Tub Lovers: Roger and Virginia Klarvin chats with a disinterested businessman about their first Noxema-drenched love making experience and Barbara Hernandez' (Drew Barrymore) skill at archery.
- The Roxbury Guys: The one with Jim Carrey. Keeping...synopsis...brief...blocking...out...pain...
- Brief Snippets, Mark Trois: "Wake Up and Smile" with a retelling of a bountiful Italian dinner out and a "Dog Show" seance.
- Terrence Maddox in Art Class: "Hey, how's this for a short story? A guy can't sell his blood 'cause he's got hepatitis, but he can't afford hepatitis medicine unless he sells his blood, so he poses nude for art classes. Plus, one time he did it with a dead guy." (with Lucy Lawless)
- Dysfunctional Family Dinner: "Don't talk to me that way! I drive a Dodge Stratus!" (with Sarah Michelle Gellar)
- Weekend Update: JACOB SILJ INFORMS A BIGOTED TINA FEY ABOUT THE HARDSHIPS OF LIVING WITH VOICE IMMODULATION.
Video: The full-frame The Best of Will Ferrell looks great, noticeably sharper than I'd expect from a television broadcast. The image is crisp and colorful, not marred by any noticeable artifacting or scattered noise. There is infrequently slight distortion around some edges, most noticeably the microphone in the first shot of the first sketch, as well as Charles Nelson Reilly's ascot while he chats about a shindig at Gene Rayburn's abode. The quality also varies slightly in a handful of sketches; the Jeopardy spoof, for one, doesn't look as crisp or pronounced as the majority of the other material on the disc. Those sorts of concerns are negligible, and a few brief moments aside, this DVD looks excellent.
Audio: Most of the action in the Dolby Digital 2.0 track (192Kbps) is anchored front and center, with stereo separation particularly noticeable with the audience's laughter and applause. Although Saturday Night Live airs with the "in stereo surround (where available)" note in the opening credits every week, this disc doesn't appear to be flagged with matrixed monaural surrounds in mind, though DPLII processing did keep some music and crowd noise chirping in the rears. Dialogue is clear and intelligible throughout, without so much as a flicker of distortion, no matter how many decibels Ferrell's screams may reach. The music used in the opening credits and several of the sketches sounds rich and full, accompanied with some respectable activity from my subwoofer.
The DVD is closed captioned for the hearing impaired.
Supplements: Will Ferrell's audition tape is one of the more notable extras, running a little over seven and a half minutes in length. It consists of four sketch snippets: Harry Caray showing off his dramatic acting chops at a reading, Senator Ted Kennedy doing a stand-up set at the Giggle Hut, a proto-"Get off the shed!" bit, and a business exec who has his calls held so he can frolick with some kitty toys.
For pretty much every episode, a few sketches are lopped off after dress rehearsal, and one of those excised scenes (6:19) is provided on this DVD. There's no explanation as to why this one was bumped before the show, but it's a peek into a briefing of an elite stealth military squad, whose ranks have recently been bolstered by ol' prospector Gus Chiggens. It's a pretty funny sketch that kept the cast cracking up throughout.
There are also seven minutes of outtakes, with giggling actors, goofing around with set dressing, and uncooperative props and sound effects. Two appearances from Late Night with Conan O'Brien are included as well. In the first, Robert Goulet drops in for seven and a half minutes, even contributing a musical number. Next, a thong-clad Ferrell plugs A Night at the Roxbury, whips out the Potty-Mouth Stand-Up Comic, breaks from the shackles of Saturday Night Live with a piece from Patton, and, in a tribute to two fallen idols, has Harry Carey tell a Henny Youngman joke. Finally, an animated photo gallery (0:47) cycles through nine photos.
The video-based extras are all full-frame and include Dolby Digital 2.0 audio (192Kbps). The disc features a set of 4x3 animated menus, and any of the DVD's seventeen sketches can be accessed through the "Scenes" menu.
Conclusion: Will Ferrell provided many of the biggest laughs on Saturday Night Live for his lengthy run on the series...so many that they're hard to fully encapsulate in the space of 71 minutes. There's enough to fill several volumes, and though The Best of Will Ferrell does capture several of his most memorable sketches and characters, its slim runtime still comes as a mild disappointment. Ferrell's fans will still want to add this disc to their DVD collections, though, and the variety of supplements makes a purchase more appealing. Recommended.