Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby Review
By Joe Lozito
I was worried about Will Ferrell there for a while. When I heard he was re-teaming with Adam McKay - his co-writing/directing partner from the disappointing "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" - for the similarly titled "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby", I was afraid we were going to see another "Saturday Night Live"-level character stretched out to 90 minutes. Thankfully, I was wrong. With "Talladega", Mr. Ferrell and Mr. McKay find a venue ripe for their particular brand of parody, and they manage to skillfully straddle the line between laughing-at and laughing-with, which should make this film much-beloved in the middle states.
Ricky Bobby was born to race. As we see in an amusing opening scene which sets the tone for the rest of the film, he was literally born in the back of a speeding car. His first, and seemingly only, words are "I wanna go fast". Before we know it, little Ricky has matured (in a manner of speaking) into a race car driver. In "Talladega", Mr. Ferrell finds his best role to date. He has never seemed more comfortable or in control of the screen. He plays Ricky with a slight George W twang and that goofy naïveté that he wears like an old pair of jeans.
The supporting cast is also uniformly great, particularly John C. Reilly as Ricky's right-hand man Cal Naughton, Jr. Like the teaming of Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey in "Dumb and Dumber", the pairing of Mr. Reilly and Mr. Ferrell seems odd at first blush. But Mr. Reilly's Cal quickly becomes Ricky's screen-sharing partner. Slightly more of a scene-stealer is Sacha Baron Cohen (no surprise there) who shows up late in the film as a French Formula One driver and Ricky's main competition.
As co-writers, Mr. Ferrell and Mr. McKay have a story to tell for a change - as is evidenced by the film's nearly two hour running time. Naturally not all the jokes hit, but only precious few are groan-inducing. The talented cast and clever script make for a nearly laugh-a-minute film. Somewhere between "Anchorman" and "Talladega", Mr. McKay has also tightened his directorial skills. The pitch-perfect pacing nails the timing of nearly every joke. Where "Anchorman" just sat there, "Talladega" speeds along like…well…insert your race car analogy here.