Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) was born to go fast. He was born in the back of a 1968 GTO going over 100 mph, his daddy was a famous driver himself, and the only words he could say until he entered school were, “I wanna go fast.”

Bobby’s father, although notorious for taking off for years at a time with little more than a phone call, did instill in his son a basic truth: If you ain’t first, you’re last. From the day Bobby heard his father (Gary Cole) utter these words he lived by that code. And years later, when, as a member of a NASCAR pit crew, Bobby is asked to fill in for a driver whose work ethic (or lack thereof) doesn’t include finishing the race, he finally gets to “go fast.” And boy does he ever go fast.

Bobby soon becomes the poster child for NASCAR, winning races left and right. With fame comes fortune, a beautiful wife, endorsement deals, and finally two horribly bratty children. This, however, should come as no surprise considering how obnoxious and power hungry Bobby has become. He teaches his children (named Walker and Texas Ranger) the importance of being tough, encourages trash talking and taunting (especially when the comments are directed at helpless grandpa), and has allowed them to become horribly stuck-up and lazy. Bobby himself is no better. Bobby insists his life-long buddy Cal (John C. Reilly) help him win every race but flat-out refuses to let Cal win even once. The world revolves around Ricky Bobby, and he expects everyone around him to worship the ground he walks on.

But all that he has hinges on Bobby’s success on the racetrack. The introduction of a new team member, the ultra-snooty, ultra-gay Formula One driver Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) only mildly perturbs Bobby. But soon Girard begins winning races, relegating Bobby to the number two spot, something that devastates a man who has lived his life thinking that a person is nothing if he doesn’t win.

And so the downfall begins. A spectacular (and hilarious) wreck shakes Bobby’s sanity and flattens what confidence he has left. Soon, he is out of a job and his wife quickly leaves him for Cal. With no way to support himself, Bobby returns to live with his mother and becomes a pizza delivery guy. But one day, just when Bobby has all but given up hope on a comeback, his long-lost father returns to help him go fast once again. And with the help of his ever-loyal crew chief Lucius (Michael Clarke Duncan), Bobby embarks on an unprecedented comeback attempt.

Talladega Nights reunites director Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, who together made Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy a cult comedy classic. And the two once again do not disappoint. Talladega combines literally dozens of side-splitting one-liners with hilarious southern stereotypes to deliver a rousing red, white, and blue comedy.

Much of the “improv” scenes that made Anchorman and Old School so funny make this comparable on several different levels. But its Talladega’s surprisingly sweet and sensitive story that’s mixed in with the occasional side sketch diversion that makes this movie even better than some of Ferrell’s other films.

Anyone could be offended by Talladega’s southern stereotypes, or, on the other side of the fence, by Girard’s over-the-top gayness, but the jokes are crafted in such an over-the-top, ridiculous manner that few people will.
But what makes this film especially surprising is its very funny supporting cast, lead by a relatively unknown in Sacha Baron Cohen. They allow Ferrell to be at its best, adding extra humor to a movie already brimming with side-splitters. One especially funny scene involves Bobby, Lucius, and Cal. Following Bobby’s crash, he (for whatever reason) thinks he is paralyzed and will never walk again. Lucius and Cal try to tell him otherwise, but Bobby sets out to prove them wrong by sticking himself with a butcher’s knife. The next minute or so is perhaps the funniest I have ever seen, not because of Bobby, who just sits there and screams, but because of Lucius and Cal’s repeated attempts (all in vain) to extract the knife from Bobby’s thigh. Talladega is brimming with random characters attempting insanely hilarious acts.

Without a sensible, coherent plot and strong performances from characters not named Will Ferrell, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is just another funny movie. But the above intangibles push this film from the realm of ordinary to the realm of extraordinary.


4 stars.

The Waynedale News Staff

Dillon Kimmel

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