The film tells the story of NASCAR stock car racing sensation Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) whose "win at all costs" approach has made him a national hero. He and his loyal racing partner, childhood friend Cal Naughton Jr. (John C. Reilly), are a fearless duo -- dubbed "Thunder" and "Lightning" by their fans for their ability to finish so many races in the #1 and #2 positions, with Cal always in second place. When a flamboyant French Formula One driver, Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen), challenges the "Thunder" and "Lightning" for the supremacy of NASCAR, Ricky Bobby must face his own demons and fight Girard for the right to be known as racing's top driver. (from MovieWeb.com)
From the minds that brought you the warped world of Ron Burgundy in 2004's Anchorman, comes Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby. In a time when smart comedies have become about as scarce as VHS tapes in a Wal-Mart, moviegoers are mostly only offered the moderately popular gross-out comedy in its stead. Talladega Nights is sadly an often funny, often irreverent comedy that is ultimately more inappropriate than it needs to be. Why writers like top starrer Will Ferrell or director Adam McKay feel the need to be as inappropriate as legally possible to get laughs is truly beyond me. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be offended or insulted more by the lack of intelligence in most of the gags.
What little aspects I liked about Talladega Nights, however, is what I liked about Anchorman. They're movies that are entertaining at its core, but riddled with enough crude humor and bad taste throughout to ruin its end result. It's kind of like eating a bag of burned popcorn. Some kernels just taste disgusting and are inedible, while others may still taste great. After watching a movie like Anchorman filtered through an editing service like CleanFilms (R.I.P.), I'm able to appreciate the humor of the basic film, and it's proof that the film could have been considerably better than what it turned out to be. But the question you have to ask yourself is, "Do you really subject yourself to eating a full bag of scorched popcorn for the few good ones hidden somewhere inside?"
The film's central character is yet another self-centered egomaniac, this time named Ricky Bobby, a strikingly southern character, instead of San Diego's Ron Burgundy. Ricky's a NASCAR driver who's extremely successful despite his arrogance, but of course that catches up to him eventually. The family he raises - his two boys and trophy wife - are just as shallow and disrespectful as he is. This makes for lots of sarcastic and offensive talk, including the children using some profanity. The idea may seem humorous at times, but it's near disturbing to think of your kids acting that way. Talladega Nights really doesn't take itself very seriously, but when the family says grace at the dinner table and argues how Jesus is resembled to each of them (Ricky "prefers" baby Jesus while the others insist He's grown up), you cringe at the irreverence and are likely to find humor and the utter absurdity. In fact, "absurd" is probably the best way to sum up the film.
It saddens me to think Hollywood will continue to churn out "comedies" like this. Yes, it has its moments (especially once it finds some heart near its conclusion), but from start to finish, the film has as many out-of-left-field sexual jokes and "TMI" comments to bring it down. Language is mixed with 1 bleeped out "f" word (in a TV commercial) and a barrage of others. Also, a French racing nemesis named Jean Girrard is an openly gay character, which makes for plenty of awkward moments, gay jokes, and even a couple shots of men kissing. The film also makes light of divorce and sex out of wedlock. Oh, did I mention relentless jokes about drunkenness, weed, and cocaine as well?
Briefly pushing content aside to look at the film and its players, Will Ferrell turns in his usual silly performance that works perfectly in the context of the story and its offbeat approach to comedy. John C. Reilly plays his dimwitted buddy Cal and steps away from his usual dramatic roles for this one. Reilly seemed to fit right at home with the comedic cast. Sacha Baron Cohen fills the villain shoes, putting on a ridiculous French accent, stealing a lot of his scenes just by speaking. Gary Cole plays Ricky's deadbeat dad Reese who adds plenty of edgy comedy to the mix (the cougar in the car scene is priceless, however), but is also the source of some pretty abrasive jokes.
It's a shame Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby drowned its engine in poor taste. Call me a prude, that's fine, but take it from someone who knows that classic old films from our grandparents' era knew how to offer plenty of belly laughs for the whole family. And don't get me wrong when I pick on Talladega Nights for its lack of intelligent humor. I enjoy a good stupid comedy from time to time, but when the film is as unnecessarily crude as this one (and many others), it ruins it. Until Hollywood wakes up and realizes this, we're stuck with disappointments like Talladega Nights that may contain a few hits, but ultimately speed on by with misses as if real wit was an unreachable goal. Skip this one.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 9/27/06)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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