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Opinion

Beloved but predictable doofus Will Ferrell commits too many errors in baseball 'documentary'

Will Ferrell in 'Ferrell Takes the Field'

ROB TRINGALI PHOTO

Will Ferrell in 'Ferrell Takes the Field'

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/9/2015 (1352 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It hardly ranks as a hall-of-fame achievement, but given its charitable good intentions, the new HBO special Ferrell Takes the Field will probably generate more positive reaction than its on-the-diamond performance deserves.

This hour-long documentary follows actor/comedian Will Ferrell as he races from ballpark to ballpark in an effort to play all 10 baseball positions (nine on-the-field spots plus designated hitter), in five different games and for 10 different teams, in a single crazy day during Major League Baseball's "cactus league" spring training in Arizona.

The purpose of the stunt was to raise funds for Cancer for College, a charity founded by a college pal of Ferrell's whose baseball career was cut short by a cancer diagnosis; in the end, more than $1 million was generated for the scholarship program.

Beyond its admirable fundraising achievement, however, there isn't much about Ferrell Takes the Field that ranks as remarkable. As a comedy vehicle, it's actually a lot like a pre-season game -- pretty much meaningless to all but the true hardcore fans of the players involved.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/9/2015 (1352 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It hardly ranks as a hall-of-fame achievement, but given its charitable good intentions, the new HBO special Ferrell Takes the Field will probably generate more positive reaction than its on-the-diamond performance deserves.

This hour-long documentary follows actor/comedian Will Ferrell as he races from ballpark to ballpark in an effort to play all 10 baseball positions (nine on-the-field spots plus designated hitter), in five different games and for 10 different teams, in a single crazy day during Major League Baseball's "cactus league" spring training in Arizona.

The purpose of the stunt was to raise funds for Cancer for College, a charity founded by a college pal of Ferrell's whose baseball career was cut short by a cancer diagnosis; in the end, more than $1 million was generated for the scholarship program.

Beyond its admirable fundraising achievement, however, there isn't much about Ferrell Takes the Field that ranks as remarkable. As a comedy vehicle, it's actually a lot like a pre-season game — pretty much meaningless to all but the true hardcore fans of the players involved.

Ferrell, who plays the entire stunt in character, acting like a 47-year-old prospect who actually believes he's got a shot at cracking a big-league roster, begins his day in an Oakland A's uniform; this is significant because the only other person to play every position in a Major League game was Bert (Campy) Campaneris, who did so as part of an Oakland (then Kansas City) Athletics promotion in 1965.

Ferrell plays one inning for the A's before being informed he's been "traded" to the Seattle Mariners, who — conveniently — happen to be Oakland's opponent. After unleashing a faux-furious tirade at Oakland GM Billy Beane, Ferrell trots across the infield and switches uniforms; after playing one inning for the Mariners, he learns he's been "released," and runs out to a waiting van to make the short trip to the next ballpark.

There's lots of baseball banter and a few amusing on-the-field moments as Ferrell and his production crew drop in on four more games — Cubs vs. Angels, Reds vs. Diamondbacks, Giants vs. White Sox and Dodgers vs. Padres — but the most interesting moments are created when the actor's handlers realize that they've fallen hours behind schedule and are in jeopardy of not completing the one-day stunt.

At one point, a helicopter is summoned to transport Ferrell to the next park, and its pilot can't resist asking his celebrity passenger to join him in an airborne rendition of Take Me Out to the Ball Game. By the end of the hour, Ferrell has accomplished his mission, but his insistence on remaining in character (except for a few words of gratitude over the final park's PA system) throughout the stunt robs the film of what might have been an interesting average-guy insight on being inside a big-league experience.

Instead, it winds up feeling like more of the same oblivious-dolt character that has been Ferrell's default for years.

For staunch fans of Ferrell's comedy, that'll make Ferrell Takes the Field a home run. For everyone else, however, this well-intended effort will probably feel more like a ground-rule double, at best.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Brad Oswald

Brad Oswald
Perspectives Editor

After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation.

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History

Updated on Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 8:07 AM CDT: Replaces photo, changes headline

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