Ask not what your country can do for you but what have I done to your country?


When Will Ferrell was struggling to break out on Saturday Night Live, the election of George W. Bush came as a gift from God. The new President gave him a character with a greater reach than one of those head-bobbing Roxbury guys–so it’s only just that Ferrell, now a marquee-topping movie star, should cap off the Bush years with this final homage. You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush is not so much a political satire as a fever dream, a hallucinatory exorcism. Ferrell paints Bush as an arrested adolescent, simultaneously self-absorbed yet without a hint of self-reflection, but beyond that there’s not much commentary on the actions or collective psyche of the Bush administration (though some of the most startling gags turn out to be true). Instead, Ferrell spins out 90 minutes of faux-personal anecdotes that blur into crass surrealism: Dreaming of a cabin getaway with another man that includes a description of a “Western-grip” version of a certain sexual act; gaping at a muscular Barbara Bush rescuing all the Bush men from a collapsed mine shaft; performing robotic dance moves with Condoleeza Rice; demanding a squadron of wild monkeys be trained for combat; and imitating, obsessively, a Castillian lisp. It is a very strange performance, captured live at Broadway theater and later broadcast on HBO. Ten years from now, audiences may stare, perplexed and hypnotized, at this show, unable to comprehend what it’s about–which may be entirely the point.

You’re Welcome America takes the form of a monologue in which the former President Bush (Ferrell) attempts to rehabilitate his image by discussing his youth and political career in intimate detail with his audience. Relieved to be free from the responsibilities of the presidency, Bush soon forgets himself and reveals more than he perhaps intends about his time in office.

That George W. Bush is a figure ripe for satire would be an understatement to say the least. It is regrettable then, to witness the approach to the subject adopted by Ferrell and McKay. One finds in You’re Welcome America the same arbitrariness that runs throughout the other recent works of the popular comedy duo. Ordinary or well-known people do and say the most outlandish and random things the writer and director can dream up. Some of it hits, some of it misses, but the jokes almost never flow organically from the material and circumstances at hand.

The comedy of Ferrell and McKay is often a comedy of creating extreme opposites. Bush was opposed to gay rights, so Ferrell has him confess to a homosexual relationship during the time, the fictional Bush declares, he went AWOL from the National Guard. During breaks between scenes, a secret service agent moves center stage and performs increasingly elaborate break dancing numbers. Secret service agents are uptight, of course, so seeing one of them dance wildly is bound to be funny, according to the show’s creators.

The DVD comes with a variety of featurettes that show how the production made it to Broadway. Plus, you get a ton of material that allows Will Ferrell to actually stretch his acting muscles. Throw on the typical HBO A/V Quality that you’ve come to expect from their DVDs. It’s truly a wonderful experience. If you missed it on HBO, check it out now. Who know when Ferrell will ever return to the level of comedic genius on display here?

RELEASE DATE: 11/03/09

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