HBO // 2009 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // November 4th, 2009
Ask not what your country can do for you, but what have I done to your country?
Many a Saturday Night Live performer has been seduced by Hollywood to make a feature length film around a character they portrayed on the show. In most cases (e.g., It's Pat and Superstar), the result has been failure and a quick end to the individual's movie career. Will Ferrell (Step Brothers) has been one of the rare successful exceptions that was able to go beyond his initial SNL inspired film: A Night At The Roxbury.
Ferrell's success allowed him to create the one-man Broadway show, You're Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush, bringing his SNL caricature of George W. Bush to the stage. However, the one-dimensional characterization that worked in short SNL sketches doesn't hold up over an extended timeframe: 90 minutes of non-stop buffoonery is about 85 minutes too many. The problem is that Ferrell is satisfied with simply going for easy laughs that he already capitalized on years ago. He acts out Bush's ineptitude through college, business ventures, being governor of Texas, rebuilding New Orleans after Katrina, dealing with 9/11, the Iraq War, penchant for giving people nicknames, etc. But Ferrell already did most of this on SNL, so why do it all over again?
The real George W. Bush's natural incompetence and closed-mindedness was already able to deliver laughs (although, in reality, the failures he presided over are more regrettable and sad rather than humorous) because he's wasn't even trying to be funny. Therefore, a one-man show needs to do more than a give the audience an impersonation. It needs to present a deeper look into the man's mind and actions and mine those to comedic effect (e.g., try to attach some ulterior motives to his policies and administration or present Bush's malapropisms and pratfalls as an act). There's no point to exclusively portraying the man as a pure fool because that would, and does, get tedious rather fast. Unfortunately, Ferrell takes the path of least effort. The show rarely rises above showing the ex-president as a bumbling simpleton. The lone attempt at seriousness is a short contemplative moment about the loss of life in Iraq.
Ferrell does throw some new wrinkles in the show, such as Bush admitting to a homosexual relationship and a desire to sleep with Condoleezza Rice, a story of being trapped in a mine shaft, a lot of cheap shots at Barbara Bush, and showing the audience a blown-up picture of his testicles. Oh, there's also a dancing secret service agent. The Condoleezza Rice segment is particularly pointless and appears to be there solely to pad the show's running time. Needless to say, none of this is engaging or entertaining.
The audio and video as solid as one would expect for an HBO special. The transfer is clear and the colors are strong. The audio does the job. Ferrell, the audience, soundtrack and sound effects come through fine.
The extras add little value. There is an unremarkable "Making Of" featurette which interviews Ferrell, Adam McKay (Talladega Nights), and other members of the cast and crew. The second extra is a "Bush on Bush" interview that sees two Georges in conversation. It's a stupid conversation, but that's what the goal is, I suppose. There's also a lame "True of False" trivia game, plus a digital copy.
The disastrous presidency of George W. Bush is ripe for satire. However, this show has low aspirations and does little with the fertile material. In the end, if you rabidly hate Bush and just want to relive his missteps, you'll love this. If not, you'll probably lose interest quickly.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (CC)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Digital Copy