Movie Review: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Actor Will Ferrell is back in theaters this past weekend with the new movie, Talladega Nights. Teamed once again with writer/ director Adam McKay, Ferrell has finally dug himself out of the BeWitched and Kicking And Screaming funk he put himself into. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is the story of the #1 NASCAR driver in America and his interactions with the world around him. He lives his life by the motto, "If you're not first, you're last" and it shows. From his trophy wife to his lavish home, Ricky Bobby will do anything to be #1 (including winning a NASCAR race in reverse). When a snooty Frenchman comes from the ranks of the European formula circuit to usurp Ricky, suddenly staying #1 isn't as easy as he thought.
The Adam McKay /Will Ferrell combo is a marvelous thing to behold. Teaming these two up is cinematic gold. According to IMDB.COM, Talladega Nights was #1 at the box office this past weekend, grossing $47 million. The dynamic duo are not new to Hollywood, as they gave us Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy back in 2004. Lets hope we see more of them. The writing was decent, with the story moving along at a steady pace. What is the real genius behind this movie is McKay's instinct in what ad-lib, impromptu, Will Farrell rants to keep and which ones to cut. Farrell is the type of comedy presence that can be uproariously funny and then drag out into uncomfortable tyrades. McKay is able to pick and choose these moments to keep the movie from becoming a BeWitched stinker. Also good were the supporting cast of characters, with comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (Mr. Throw the Jew Down the well himself) playing the very french and very gay Jean Girard and John C. Reilly as Ricky's best friend and the other member of the "Shake and Bake" team, Cal Naughton, Jr.
Sacha Baron Cohen was a bit too over the top as the Frenchman. Every character in this movie was a satire in and of themselves, but Jean Girard stood out as being almost too ludicrous. Perhaps it was the very heavy and sloppy french accent or the way Cohen carried the character, but it just didn't mesh well with the feel of the film. In almost every scene with him, it was everyone else and then GIRARD! I found this most noticeable when Ricky Bobby visits Girard at his home to discuss his return to NASCAR and Ferrell falls flat against the over the top acting of Cohen. That scene, above all else, felt very forced and surprisingly uncomfortable for a comedy. That's not to say it wasn't funny. Any movie about NASCAR that can work in a Highlander reference gets a thumbs up from me, but the scene shifted the mood of the film slightly.
If Farrell and McKay aren't careful they are going to suffer the same fate as most film franchises coming out of Hollywood. These two films, Anchorman and Talladega Nights, are almost identical in plot. A socially inept and ego filled hero reaches the top of his game, only to be undone by his own pride. The hero then finds the strength to overcome their adversity and regain their throne. While the devices (a pregnate panda bear or a cougar) and the characters change, the ideas stay the same. These movies are funny and well written, but if they keep doing them in the same formula assembly line, the jokes are going to wear thin quickly. I want more of this team, but I would like some variety too.
Talladega Nights is a great film. Full of good laughs and fun times. Not as good as Anchorman, but still a worthwhile summer release.