Spoiler Alert: They don’t really let Will Ferrell pitch in Ferrell Takes the Field, his stunt HBO doc where he plays every position (plus designated hitter) for 10 different MLB teams during one day of 2015 spring training action in Arizona. No, in his 90-second stint with the Dodgers, he throws one quote-unquote fastball to then-Padre Rico Noel, a six-year minors vet in danger of never getting a major-league at-bat, who bunts. Which is a huge disappointment, though understandable, given that Will Ferrell getting decapitated by a line drive would’ve been unsuitable for HBO, and that’s saying something.
Spoiler Alert: They don’t really let him play catcher, either, which is also a huge disappointment, and way less understandable. In his 90-second stint with the Giants, he oversees an intentional walk before Bruce Bochy pulls him, which, okay, Will Ferrell getting decapitated by a foul ball wouldn’t be so telegenic either, but IDK, man, what’re the odds? I’m paying $15 a month for HBO, and I haven’t gotten my money’s worth for awhile.
Spoiler Alert: Yeah, this was boring. It’s only an hour long (it premiered Saturday night and is available on HBO Go or wherever until it bores everyone else), which is the good news. (It also generated a million dollars for Cancer for College, a charity that grants scholarships to cancer survivors and is run by one of Ferrell’s old USC buddies, which is the better news.) But I only laughed out loud twice, the second time during the credits, at a shot of Billy Beane watching Moneyball and mouthing Brad Pitt’s dialogue.
Spoiler Alert: The other time was during the clip above, specifically the slo-mo replay of Ferrell, as the designated hitter for the White Sox, fouling a Jean Machi pitch meekly down the first-base line and fucking up his hand in the process. He actually takes two balls to start out 2-0, which may explain why the announcer notes that Machi’s not a lock to even make the team (it’s cool, he’s on the Red Sox now), but Ferrell even attempting to run the bases was probably an insurance risk as well, so, nope, strikeout.
Spoiler Alert: There’s a minor blip where they’re driving him around in a van to get to the five different games in five different stadiums, and they fall so far behind he needs a chopper to get to the Sox-Giants matchup on time, which means you get a slow-mo shot of a bat-wielding 47-year-old white dude in a Chicago White Sox uniform emerging from a helicopter parked in center field, and it feels like a deep extra on the forthcoming Straight Outta Compton DVD. I wonder if he considered putting Robin Ventura in a headlock.
Spoiler Alert: He gets the ball hit to him a few times, actually: in center field for the Angels (he holds the guy to a single, also in slo-mo) and in left for the Diamondbacks (who you’d think would be too tight-assed to tolerate this sort of tomfoolery at all). Neither time packs as much drama as when he initially walks into the Oakland A’s clubhouse, and all the players just stare at him blankly, and for a half-second you wonder if most of the MLB people involved in this project—particularly the striving Noels and Machis of the world—found it a li’l irritating, charity hook aside. Like maybe in person this was like when Odd Future terrorized Buzzfeed. (John Madden, of all people, is quoted in the doc as suggesting that this whole charade indicates a “lack of respect” for the game.)
Spoiler Alert: No, otherwise, this thing is just Ferrell as “himself” gamely keeping up various C- running gags in a grudging workmanlike sorta manner, like he’s carrying the second-to-last Saturday Night Live sketch of the night. He keeps pretending that he’s being cut or traded every time he switches teams, which gets pretty excruciating, though I guess he was gracious enough to give the funniest line to the random dude in his entourage who has to explain why Ferrell can’t just fly the helicopter everywhere: “It was a high hourly.” Eh, you had to be there. Actually, no you didn’t. Forget it. Just donate your $15 monthly HBO fee directly to Cancer for College, and maybe next month try Showtime instead.
Spoiler Alert: At one point a Diamondbacks scout describes Ferrell as having “no ability and a great clubhouse presence,” which, given that the last full-length movie of his I saw was Anchorman 2, I am tempted to apply to his entire career.
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