Four Transcendent 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.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (Featuring Darnell McKay, Will Ferrell, Senator David Koechner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Captain John C. Reilly, and Jack McBrayer)

Why Listen: 25 years later after the film's release, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's son, Darnell, reflect on changing the "cultural course of American history," discovering Molly Shannon was a robot, the misery caused by Jack McBrayer (who shows up to defend himself), and the popular religion founded by the late Michael Clarke Duncan. Captain John C. Reilly, who recently finished up defeating musician Ted Nugent's militia on the last piece of Detroit above sea level, calls in to add his two cents regarding everything unrelated to the movie. Adam McKay, on the other hand, couldn't attend because he died of a four-hour long hammerhead shark attack off the coast of Catalina. With stories that good, who actually would want real production details and anecdotes from the shoot? That quickly becomes the last thing you'd want from McKay's commentaries.

What's Said: We've yet to see a single sequel to Talladega Nights, but there are eight sequels awaiting us in the future. McKay's son wonders if they were a mistake due to their quality. Ferrell and Captain Reilly mostly disagree with him:

Reilly: [Sighs] If you said six, I would say no. The last two with the puppets and all that was...

Ferrell: The one with the puppets and the one, Talladega Nights Goes Bananas, the one where the monkeys drove the cars, those two were mistakes.

Reilly: You can't teach an ape to drive.

Ferrell: No. The first six were fantastic.

McKay: Can you name them? Talladega Nights was the first one, then it was Talladega Days, Talladega Dusk...

Ferrell: Then Talladega Midafternoon.

Reilly: Talladega Afternoon Delights. Number six was Guess What? Another Talladega, Shut the Hell Up. That was mine. I pushed to get the title through.

A Day on the Job: Again, no days from the set are ever discussed seriously. One of the few days from principal photography that actually is brought up covers Jean Girard's (Sacha Baron Cohen) introduction, which involved PCP and a broken arm:

Ferrell: We're at the point in the movie where Sacha breaks my arm. No one knew I actually broke my arm for the filming of the movie. That was not a prosthetic.

Reilly: Take that, Robert De Niro.

McKay: My father actually had Will smoke a bunch of PCP before this scene, so he could not be injured or feel any pain.

Ferrell: I was definitely in a heightened state.

Reilly: We were all hopped up.

Trivia: In 2031, Waterworld continues to climb the AFI Top 100 list. It went from ranking in the 90s to the 70s to number 52.

Bonus Trivia: Against Sony's wishes, the disgraced former candidate for Senate, Captain John C. Reilly, opened up a chain of restaurants called "Shake and Bake."

Step Brothers (Featuring McKay, Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Jon Brion, and Baron Davis) 

Why Listen: If there's such a thing as a classic audio commentary, the one for Step Brothers is among them. It's performed as a musical and scored by a tremendous musician, composer Jon Brion (who everyone should see perform at Largo in Los Angeles if they can or haven't yet). McKay, Ferrell, and Reilly often sing about what's happening on screen, in an assortment of styles. Nowhere else will you ever hear songs about actress Marry Steenburgen, Apocalypse Now's test screening scores, a lonely choreographer, nobody shedding tears for the George Clooneys of the world, and Ferrell's $25,000 prosthetic balls and their overworked maker. It's unfortunate there's no soundtrack for the Step Brothers audio commentary. They're all consistently funny, creative, and seemingly improvised songs, backed by some playful tunes from Brion.

Towards the end and, after calling out and naming all the cruel child actors in the industry, McKay and company are joined by all-star basketball player Baron Davis. The former Los Angeles Clippers player opens up about his time in the NBA, asks genuine questions about the movie, and brings his stamp to the musical numbers. Like McKay's finest film, in the end this commentary has it all.

What's Said: McKay shot 70% too much footage for the fight over the drum set, but it was worth it. A true story influenced this particular fight between Brennan Huff and Dale Doback:

Reilly: This is based on a real part of my life. One of my brothers had a drum set and was real sensitive about people touching it. [Pauses] I still haven't talked to him about this yet. He doesn't know.

Ferrell: He doesn't know it's going to be on 3,000 screens?

Reilly: I better make that call before the movie comes out. It wouldn't be so bad except he still has a drum set in the basement of his home now.

McKay: Is he still touchy about someone messing with it?

Reilly: I gotta think so.

A Day on the Job: Davis wonders about the differences between making Talladega Nights and Step Brothers. After Reilly responds Step Brothers is "Talladega Nights and Ordinary People mixed together," his co-star and director talk about how their sports comedy inspired their masterwork:

Ferrell: On Talladega Nights, we had to worry about all the car stuff and had to work with NASCAR. We had a little more structure, and this one was more of a free-for-all. We got to go crazy more.

McKay: It was a reaction to Talladega Nights. We had to do a lot of green screen, stunts, and cars. We thought, "God, screw it. The funniest stuff is these guys hanging out in a room messing around," so we tried to write the simplest idea that we could. It's pretty insane.

Originally, McKay, Ferrell, and Reilly came up with ten different ideas over dinner. The next day, McKay came up with a new idea, Step Brothers. They all immediately agreed it was the story to tell.

Trivia: The first draft of the script was 180 pages long, and a million and a half feet of film was shot for the movie.