Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby Review
Ever since he was a child, Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) has wanted to go fast. Born in the back of his daddy's (Gary Cole) muscle car, this Southern good ole boy grows up with his (long departed) old man's words ringing in his ears - "If you ain't first, you're last". That philosophy and his need for speed inspire Ricky to become a NASCAR racing driver. With the help of his loyal childhood friend and teammate Cal Naughton Jr (John C Reilly), he becomes a champion, marries a blonde trophy wife, Carley (Leslie Bibb) and has two obnoxious sons.
Letting success go to his head, Ricky is blissfully unaware he's headed for a fall. Carley's love for him depends entirely on his fame and income, while Cal is growing frustrated with his friend's refusal to let him win a race even once. The champ's behaviour on and off the track has upset his sponsors, who decide to bring in a new driver to humiliate him. The newcomer, French Formula One ace Jean Girrard (Sacha Baron Cohen doing an Inspector Clouseau acc-awnt), sneers at Ricky and promises to defeat him.
If not quite on the same comic level as Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay's previous collaboration, Anchorman, Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby is nevertheless a witty and satisfying comedy, packed with funny characters and memorable lines. It even works as a stock car racing movie, with better action on the track than Days Of Thunder. Some of the crashes will make you wince!
Most pleasingly, Talladega Nights sees Will Ferrell back on top form after a couple of disappointments (Kicking And Screaming and Bewitched). Ricky Bobby, like Ron Burgundy, is the kind of part the comedian was born to play: a puffed-up idiot with no idea how stupid he looks. Ricky also provides Ferrell with plenty of opportunity to go off on the kind of surreal verbal riffs he did so well in Anchorman. Ricky saying grace at the dinner table is one of the funniest scenes you'll see the year.
Ferrell has solid comic support from John C Reilly, Gary Cole and especially Sacha Baron Cohen, whose send-up of a snotty, European sophisticate is a perfect foil for Ferrell's parody of a dumb American redneck. It's a shame though that David Koechner, so funny as the sports reporter in Anchorman and the gun lobbyist in Thank You For Smoking, is wasted in a nothing role as a pit crew member.