Will Ferrell has mixed reviews as Bush on Broadway

NEW YORK Fri Feb 6, 2009 4:40pm EST

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Comic actor Will Ferrell's debut show on Broadway lampooning George W. Bush opened to praise and criticism for his impersonation of the former president honed on TV's "Saturday Night Live."

"You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush" earned mixed reviews on Friday, with many critics noting the show offers more of the low-brow humor that Ferrell built his film career on instead of sharp theatrical satire.

But they said it was still likely to succeed due to Ferrell's name and popularity. Ferrell impersonated Bush on the NBC comedy show before making a string of hit comedies including "Elf," "Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby," and "Blades of Glory."

New York Times critic Ben Brantley said parts of the show when Ferrell lurches more into the absurdist realm than straight impersonation displayed "comic genius" and was "the stuff of inspired stand-up."

"But ultimately this production is less about the legacy of George W. Bush than it is about the comic persona that has been perfected by Will Ferrell," he said. "Sometimes it's really funny, and sometimes it sort of sags. I laughed, I yawned."

New York Post critic Frank Scheck wrote that the show was Ferrell's famed "generally low-brow humor" and "hardly cutting-edge political satire."

"It's theatrical comfort food for Broadway audiences who want to see one of their favorite comic actors live," he said.

He said Ferrell would likely retire his character when the show ends its run next month. The 41-year-old actor had a resurgence in popularity before the November 4 election on "Saturday Night Live," when he returned for appearances as Bush.

"Die-hard or even casual Ferrell fans will not feel cheated," Variety's David Rooney said of Ferrell's "cathartic, almost cleansing farewell" to Bush.

But USA Today's Elysa Gardner called the show a "witless, pointless spectacle."

"Ferrell's shots both over-reach and fail to sting," she said, concluding that "Ferrell's mission ought to have been aborted."

(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Xavier Briand)

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