Talladega Nights The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Adam McKay
scr Will Ferrell, Adam McKay
with Will Ferrell, John C Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Leslie Bibb, Amy Adams, Jane Lynch, Gary Cole, Michael Clarke Duncan, Greg Germann, Molly Shannon, Andy Richter, David Koechner
release US 4.Aug.06, UK 15.Sep.06
06/US Columbia 1h48

Shake and bake: Ferrell and Reilly

cohen adams duncan

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Talladega Nights From the team that brought us Anchorman, here's another goofy comedy that pokes gentle fun at just about everything. Set in the world of stock car racing, it's charming and often funny, but it also drags badly and never makes much of its characters.

Ricky Bobby (Ferrell), born in what looks like a yee-haw Dukes of Hazzard episode, has always wanted to go fast. So it's natural that, with a lucky break or two, he becomes a Nascar champion with his best buddy (Reilly) at his side. He marries a sexy fan (Bibb), has a couple of kids, keeps his sponsor (Germann) happy. Then, of course, it all goes wrong and he's forced to reconnect with his parents (Lynch and Cole), rediscover his passion and face his arch-nemesis, the French ponce Jean Girard (Cohen).

The film takes off with a flurry of corny gags that amusingly poke fun at everyday things like, for example, what age we imagine Jesus to be when we say grace. The script is packed with hilariously telling bits of comedy, such as Ricky's sons being named Walker and Texas Ranger ("If we'd wanted wusses, we'd have named them Dr Quinn and Medicine Woman"). Essentially, everyone in this film is slow-witted, homophobic and racist.

Fortunately, the film is so relentlessly stupid that we can't take it seriously. Which makes the story's earnest moralising deeply pointless. And very dull. Even the sharp cast can't quite rescue the film once it falls into a gloomy funk. Ferrell creates his usual likeable goombah, although he's pricklier than usual. Reilly is terrific as the loyal but thoughtless guy who genuinely hasn't a clue. Cohen steals the film as wonderfully slithery Eurotrash.

The racing scenes are especially well-filmed--exciting and energetic, with lots of fabulous crashes. And the warped, absurd moments continually catch us off guard. You can't help but love Ricky's assistant's (Adams) rousing inspirational speech at the end. Or the 1980s power rock song score. Or the ridiculous closing credit scenes. But you also wish the writers had given us something to grab hold of.

cert 12 themes, language, vulgarity 1.Aug.06

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2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall