NEW YORK - It's often said all actors want to be rock stars. Will Ferrell has gotten to be both.
Nearly every Ferrell movie has given the comedian wide berth to, as Christopher Walken once urged him to in the famous "Saturday Night Live" cowbell sketch, "explore the space."
Ferrell's nightingale warbling — or, more accurately, his talent for portraying himself as BELIEVING in his nightingale warbling — has played a large role in his comedy. The latest addition to Ferrell's canon is his sonorous performance in the new "Step Brothers," which made $30 million in its opening weekend.
Song has been central in many of the films of Adam McKay (who directed "Step Brothers") and Judd Apatow (who produced it). Think of Michael Cera belting out "These Eyes" in "Superbad," or the dancing coda of "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" in "The 40 Year-Old Virgin."
But no one has made it a trademark as much as Ferrell has. As a cast member on "Saturday Night Live," one of his best characters was a rapping Robert Goulet. At last year's Academy Awards, he sang that "a comedian at the Oscars is the saddest, bitterest, alcoholic clown."
He's sung a love song to Lance Armstrong (at the 2006 ESPY's) and crooned a duet of "Leather and Lace" with Dave Grohl (check YouTube). He's even had an iPod commercial.
But where does his serenade in "Step Brothers" rank? Here are Ferrell's best musical performances in a movie. (Honorable mentions go to his "Love Me Sexy" in "Semi-Pro," his version of Bo Bice's "Blades of Glory" in the ice skating comedy, and his insistence on skating to the Black Eyed Peas "My Humps" in the same film.)
5. "Baby It's Cold Outside": In the 2003 Christmas comedy "Elf," Ferrell plays an oversized elf who insists on the power of carols. Though co-star Zooey Deschanel (Jovie) has a great voice (she released an album earlier this year with singer-songwriter M. Ward), she hesitates to get into the holiday spirit. Ferrell, however, finds her singing "Baby It's Cold Outside" in the shower. Swept away, he joins in — which is when Jovie, appalled, realizes there's a giant elf in the bathroom with her. He's a long way from Bing Crosby.
4. "(I'd Go The) Whole Wide World": Even in Ferrell's most dramatic film, he found room for a tune. In 2006's "Stranger Than Fiction," Ferrell plays the straight-laced IRS auditor Harold Crick. He shows he's not just a suit by meekly — and with eyes closed — singing Wreckless Eric's "(I'd Go The) Whole Wide World" while playing acoustic guitar. For once, Ferrell sings not for a laugh but for a revelation of soulfulness — even if not perfectly in tune. Listening, Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal) falls for him.
3. "Afternoon Delight": Attempts to define love have left many a poet tongue-tied. In 2004's "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" (Ferrell's first film with McKay), Ferrell, as Burgundy, explains what love is by launching into "Afternoon Delight," the Starland Vocal Band's hit about lovemaking in the PM. On cue, co-stars Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell and David Koechner join right in.
2. "Con te partiro": Having plumbed the comedy of so many pop songs, Ferrell went abroad for his material in "Step Brothers." In the film, Ferrell (Brennan Huff) and John C. Reilly (Dale Doback) play middle-aged men who haven't matured past puberty. Doback is convinced of his step brother's vocal talents: "Your voice, it's like a combination of Fergie and Jesus," he says. At a crucial point in the film, Huff must take the stage and when he does, he turns to Andrea Bocelli's "Con te partiro" (known as "Time to Say Goodbye" in English). All that really needs to be said is that it's an aria. Will Ferrell, completely seriously, singing an aria.
1. "Dust in the Wind": There is tragedy in "Old School." Somewhere in the second act of the 2003 comedy, one of the pseudo fraternity's brothers, "Blue," dies from a heart attack, apparently overexcited by the prospect of wrestling two coeds. At his funeral, Ferrell's character pays him tribute with a somber rendition of Kansas' "Dust in the Wind." He concludes by exclaiming "You're my boy, Blue! You're my boy."