Ferrell Takes the Field Plot Summary:
A comedic documentary that follows actor Will Ferrell as he plays 10 positions on 10 different baseball teams in one day in order to raise money and awareness for the charity, Cancer for College.
On the surface, Ferrell Takes the Field looks like nothing more than your usual, ‘Will Ferrell doing Will Ferrell things on camera.’ In many ways, this new HBO special from Funny or Die is exactly that. It’s Will Ferrell being weird, self-deprecating, and full of foolish bravado — the same routine you’ve seen him do in countless films, and television spots.
Yet, it’s the opening scenes that prevents the unwanted feeling of ‘same old, same old’ and gives it a fresh injection of heart and humanity.
For those, including this writer, who thought Ferrell’s quest to play every position in baseball in one day was just the fodder for an HBO special, you quickly learn this is happening for an actual reason. In the opening scene we see Ferrell sitting in a ball park with his friend, and former USC classmate Craig Pollard. Pollard was a former baseball stand-out for the Trojans until his second bout with cancer ended his playing career. This didn’t stop Pollard from finding a new dream, helping others. He founded Cancer for College, a charity which grants college scholarships to cancer survivors. Ferrell has been a major advocate for the charity, and we learn from the get-go that Ferrell is pulling this baseball stunt in order to raise money and awareness for the charity.
This scene changes your entire perspective on the special. It makes you feel really positive. You really admire Ferrell for what he’s doing. Yes, this stunt is completely ridiculous, but he’s doing it for an amazing reason. This isn’t Ferrell trying to shoehorn himself into funny situations just to squeeze a couple of bucks out of HBO. No, this is actually an altruistic project that just also happens to provide the audience a barrel full of laughs along the way.
And, yes, Ferrell Takes the Field is pretty damn funny. Ferrell’s classic mix of wide-eyed, completely misguided sincerity and blowharded braggadociosness is surprisingly toned down. There’s no screaming, manic Will Ferrell on display here, which is actually a relief. That routine works in small doses, and it would’ve been wildly out of place here. For the most part Ferrell is rather subdued, except for his genuine enthusiasm of actually being in the live games. You can tell he’s not only really excited, but that’s he’s actually taking things seriously…well, outside of insisting on talking into his glove when he talks to a pitcher or catcher.
The funniest parts of the special come in Ferrell’s ‘confessional’ which is where we see the aforementioned braggadociosness. The hilarity of the scene is amplified because Ferrell places it so straight-laced that you start to believe he buys into everything he’s saying. And of course, everything he’s saying is utterly ludicrous.
The best scene of the special comes when he interacts with now legendary Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane. If you recall Beane was played by Brad Pitt in the absolutely phenomenal true-life baseball drama, Moneyball. When Beane (like many GMs and coaches would later in the special) informs Ferrell he’s been traded, Ferrell loses it. He just starts lighting Beane up both in person and in his confessional. Yet, there’s still this air of politeness and humbleness to the entire scene, which makes it that much funnier. The fall out of your chair moment happens when Ferrell, in an aside mumbles that he hopes Beane has a terrible Christmas. It’s said said so fast, and almost so quietly that it takes you completely off-guard.
Ferrell Takes the Field is a really fun, light-hearted, and good-spirited special. It’s a breezy 45 minutes, and baseball fan or not you’ll enjoy it immensely. Will Ferrell’s natural charm, and charisma, combined with the fact this is all being done for a good cause makes this a feel-good comedy special, something very rare to find. Is it the funniest thing HBO has put out this year? No, that honor goes to Seven Days in Hell, but this is a definite second.
Rating: 8 out of 10