Four Transcendent Adam McKay Audio Commentaries

Adam McKay audio commentaries

If there’s one director who takes audio commentaries to a whole other level, it’s Adam McKay. The Academy Award-nominated director has a commentary that’s a musical scored by Jon Brion (Punch-Drunk Love), one set in the year 2031, and another with a series of arguments and feuds that end with Paul Rudd and Christina Applegate feeling slighted. Few directors bring this degree of imagination to their bonus features.

I can’t recommend enough doing what the director believes only .01% of the population does: listen to these tracks. At times they’re about as funny as the movies themselves, which often go almost completely undiscussed by everybody participating. Next to nothing is revealed, but you do get a crystal clear idea of the sensibility and mind behind the work. The nonstop jokes are as strange and inventive as the gags in AnchormanThe Other Guys, and the rest of the filmmaker’s work.

All four of the Adam McKay audio commentaries recommended below can’t be spoken of highly enough.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Featuring Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, and Surprise Guests, Including Lou Rawls)

Why Listen: “In this post-Janet Jackson-era, how far can you go?” Ferrell ponders at the start of the track. The actor and co-writer only asks because McKay and himself begin by attempting to one-up each other’s dirty jokes. The tone of the commentary doesn’t change much from there.

It takes 10 minutes until the duo acknowledges the movie, but even after that, they discuss almost everything but what’s happening on the screen. Nobody will come away from the commentary with a better understanding of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, but the track is a reminder of how creative and quick McKay and Ferrell are. Their back-and-forth is really something.

They’re joined by Andy Richter and Kyle Gass, to joke around, and an emotional Paul Rudd via phone, who gets into it with Richter and Glass. Ferrell and McKay eventually kick Conan’s co-host and the Tenacious D star out after things get heated, leaving Ferrell injured and bloody. “I’m a little shocked,” Rudd comments in the aftermath. “I haven’t heard an argument like that since the commentary for Kissing Jessica Stein.”

What’s Said: After McKay can’t persuade Ferrell to star in another movie, he groans about recording commentaries. He can think of only one (nonexistent) track he’s ever heard:

McKay: These things are bullshit anyway, these commentaries.

Ferrell: Total bullshit. Does anyone ever listen to them?

McKay: No. You watch the movie, things happen, you respond, and you’re done.

Ferrell: I listen to the one on the original musical Camelot.

McKay: I like the one with Charlie Sheen, Men at Work. I was wrong, I’ve watched that commentary many, many times. I had those guys who rent the guest house, and they make crystal meth. They sell it out of there. I’m cool with it….Here’s the thing, they throw me some every now and then. Last month I was up for fourteen straight days and finally had a heart attack – the only way to go sleep. I’d just do crystal meth and listen to the commentary for Men at Work over and over. I watched the commentary for Men at Work for five days.

A Day on the Job: McKay maybe doesn’t get enough credit as a visual director. His movies have some fantastic sight gags, for starters, but the director thinks audiences would applaud Anchorman for its visual beauty, not only the laughs:

We used a 34 mm Dutch lens, and it’s a beautiful lens. It gets you right in there. We used it with this scene here [showing Ron’s fantasy family life with Veronica]. There’s only six of them in the world, so to transport it across international borders, you have to have a team of four people with it. It cost a pretty penny. I don’t know if you’re allowed to say budgetary things, but it cost $400,000 just for that one day of shooting. It’s people going, “People won’t notice, people won’t notice,” but they notice….I’d say without exaggeration, there were six applause breaks in this movie just because of how beautiful something was shot.

Trivia: Although initially written as a joke, McKay later heard about all the anchorman street fights from the ’70s and realized how realistic the scene was.

Anchorman 2: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Adam McKay, Judd Apatow, and the Main Cast)

Why Listen: Unquestionably the closest to a conventional commentary track. McKay, Apatow, and the actors do indeed discuss shooting days, the MPAA’s confusing rules, jokes that changed or were cut, and point out background jokes that could go easily unnoticed. McKay suggests if you’re ever not laughing during a scene, watch Brick always trying to figure out what’s happening around him. What’s most endearing about the track is how obvious it is McKay’s cast loves playing these “jackasses” and how much they enjoy each other’s company. Whether making a movie or a commentary track, they all bring great material out of one another. Listening to them mess around for two hours is a joy.

What’s Said: The Blu-ray menu for the sequel alone features a deleted scene from the lengthy comedy. Many scenes were cut, like the ambitious gag shot from Burgundy’s point-of-view:

Apatow: I still miss the ‘cutting to black for five minutes and experiencing Ron’s world’ sequence [when he’s blind]. Does it exist anywhere? Will it make a return somewhere?

McKay: It does. We did a reading of it. The idea was we’d go to this sequence, pure black and it was from Ron’s point-of-view. It was a whole long scene.

Ferrell: But we never threw it in [the movie].

McKay: We didn’t because this part of the movie was so long. This by far was the most epic movie we’ve ever done.

A Day on the Job: For the sequel’s newscaster rumble, most of the production’s dream picks became a reality. For a quick second, there was a discussion about Oprah and President Barak Obama making cameos. The day of shooting the sequence – which Kim Kardashian was present for, Apatow notes – gets more attention than any other scene during the track:

McKay: I don’t know why Liam Neeson, the coolest man on planet Earth, would say yes to this. Same with this guy, Harrison Ford.

Apatow: Harrison Ford hadn’t seen the first one. He didn’t watch it before showing up to shoot. I asked will he watch it afterward. He said no.

McKay: Is that true?

Apatow: Yeah, he’s that cool. Kanye did some rapping for us on set. He did “New Slaves” for us in the tent.

McKay: One of the great moments I’ve ever seen, one of our editors, Brent White, sitting to my right and Cate Hardam, our script supervisor, hearing Kanye talk about “New Slaves.” I think Brett says, “Well, what is it?” Then Kanye goes, “Let me do it for you.” Two feet away from Brent he raps the entire song right to his face.

McKay is surprised how close the end result of the fight scene matches his vision considering the budget he had. Overall, he’s satisfied he got a minotaur, Liam Neeson, and Brick with a gun from the future all in one scene. As for the sound of Brick’s future gun blowing up the building, McKay insisted it was as loud as possible for the audience.

Trivia: A cut line stated Ron Burgundy believed New York City is called the big apple because there are apple trees everywhere, which is why McKay and the crew placed apple trees throughout the movie.

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