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Starring
Will Ferrell
as Ricky Bobby

John C. Reilly
as Cal Naughton, Jr.

Sacha Baron Cohen
as Jean Girard

Gary Cole
as Reese Bobby

Jane Lynch
as Lucy Bobby

Michael Clarke Duncan
as Lucius Washington

Greg Germann
as Larry Dennit, Jr.

Leslie Bibb
as Carley Bobby

Amy Adams
as Susan

Written by Will Ferrell & Adam McKay

Directed by Adam McKay

Running Time: 1:48

Rated PG-13
for crude and sexual humor,
language, drug references
and brief comic violence.

B+


THE OPENING

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby was a pretty funny movie that had some slow moments, but for the most part was entertaining throughout.

THE STORY

Ricky Bobby was born to drive. From the moment he could reach the pedals with the help of a wiffle ball bat, Ricky wanted nothing more than to 'go fast.' While working in the pit crew of a horrible NASCAR driver, Ricky gets the chance to become a driver himself, and he takes full advantage, becoming the best the sport has ever seen. His best friend Carl becomes part of the team, and 'Shake and Bake' dominate the scene like never before. But, from France comes Formula One's best and brightest, Jean Girard, who plans on taking down Ricky Bobby. In their first head-to-head race, Ricky has a horrific crash and his life and his dreams come falling down around him. But not for long, because Ricky Bobby was born to drive and with the power of the cougar behind him, he will make it all the way back to the top!

THE REVIEW

After some missteps the last couple of years, Will Ferrell finally makes it back to the big time with Talladega Nights. The movie follows the usual pattern of Ferrell hits, where he plays a slightly dumb character who takes everything very seriously, no matter how stupid it is. The movie actually felt a lot like Rocky III to me. All about a guy who comes from nothing, gets to be the best in the world, gets taken down, then has to fight to make his way back to the top. The only difference is, Sacha Baron Cohen's Jean Girard character is slightly gayer than Mr. T's Clubber Lang character. And Talladega Nights is intentionally funny.

Ferrell, who turns 40 next year and plays a 25 year old in the movie, has his George W. accent going throughout, which made him sound dumber than normal. But it's the seriousness with which his character takes his situations that makes the movie funny. If at any point he lets up and lets the audience know he's in on the joke, the entire movie is ruined, but Ferrell and company continue to hit the jokes left and right. And unlike some (ok, most) Saturday Night Live skits that take a single joke and run it into the ground in two minutes, Talladega Nights manages to keep the humor coming for the whole film. The movie is really a satire on the entire macho sports film genre. Everything you see in this movie you'll see in films like Rocky III or Days of Thunder, but Ferrell twists those paint-by-number plots and takes it to a completely absurd level. At one point, there's a massive crash that goes on for so long, the TV announcers actually cut to a commercial break, only to come back and have the crash still continuing.

It helps when Ferrell isn't expected to do everything himself. His teammate and best friend is played by John C. Reilly, who has the whole 'hick' thing down even better than Ferrell. If at all possible, Reilly's Cal Naughton Jr. character is even dumber than Ricky Bobby. It's like the blind leading the blind AND deaf. Sacha Baron Cohen, looking almost unrecognizable outside of his Borat and Ali G characters, has a bizarre French-esque accent that is impossible to place and difficult to understand. And the best part is, they made him gay, and his husband is none other than Andy Richter, who I have to believe had some of his scenes left on the cutting room floor. Adding a gay Frenchman to a movie about NASCAR is just about as funny as you can get. Two people from completely opposite ends of the world who happen to want the same thing: to be the best NASCAR driver in the world. Can you imagine what it would be like to the millions of NASCAR fans if this really happened? A gay Frenchman, sponsored by Perrier, beating the likes of Jeff Gordon or Dale Earnhardt Jr.? I would have to start watching NASCAR just to see the reactions of people in the crowds. I actually thought the racing scenes were done pretty well. There wasn't a lot of them, considering this is a movie about a NASCAR driver, but what we saw was good, and the crashes were spectacular.

The rest of the cast was strong, but didn't have the comedy weight on their shoulders. Gary Cole, Michael Clarke Duncan, Leslie Bibb and Amy Adams are some of the big names in the cast. I think the only other really funny characters were probably Ricky Bobby's two sons, Walker and Texas Ranger. They're complete hellions who would have no problem smoking weed and beating up old people, even if they're only 10 and 7 years old, respectively. But it's the ad-lib, improvisational abilities of Ferrell, Baron Cohen and Reilly that carry the movie. After the film ends and the credits role, you can see outtakes of some of the scenes that were shot and you can see how much was ad-libbed and how much was written in. Ferrell and Baron Cohen especially are known for their improv skills so when the two of them get into an argument at the race track, or something more passionate, you can't help but laugh. They know what works and what doesn't because they've had so much experience with it.

There are moments, as in all macho sports films or comedies of this nature, where the movie slows down. The first half of the film is almost non-stop laughs, but then we need to see the 'story' take place. When Ricky Bobby needs to start fighting his way back up, there are scenes where nothing really happens and the pace drags, but it never lasts for too long. And sprinkled into the 'serious' scenes are more absurd sequences, like Ricky's two kids yelling 'Anarchy!' and spraying a neighbor with a garden hose... while he sits inside his living room. It's ridiculous scenes like that which make me laugh, and this movie is full of them.

THE BOTTOM LINE

So overall, I really enjoyed Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. If you're looking for a simple, laugh out loud comedy, this is the one for you. It is Will Ferrell at his absolute best. Oh, and after all the credits have run, there is one more short scene, so don't leave the theater too quickly.

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reviewed 08/04/06

© 2006 Wolfpack Productions

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