Dir: Adam McKay. US. 2006.108mins.
Even though TalladegaNights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby intermittentlyspins its wheels, crowd-pleaser runs well enough to reach the finish line.Playing to his strengths, star/co-writer/executive producer Will Ferrell reapsmany good comic moments early on in Adam Mckay'sfeature to compensate for a sluggish second half.
Set in the world of NASCARracing, a sport enjoying tremendous popularity growth in the
As this Sony comedy expandsinto international markets throughout the end of the year, it will face twomajor obstacles: the rest of the planet's disinterest in NASCAR and Ferrell'slesser overseas drawing power (both Anchormanand 2005's Kicking And Screaming wereheavily weighted towards home takings); marketing in the UK and elsewhere wouldbe wise to play up the strong performance from SachaBaron Cohen as Ferrell's chief rival. DVD business should be brisk, as thereundoubtedly will be a racier unrated version targeted to a more adult audience.
Hotshot driver Ricky(Ferrell) is NASCAR's most popular and successful racer, earning lucrativeendorsement deals and basking in the adulation of all those around him. Butthen French driver Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen)enters the field, replacing Ricky in the winner's circle and sending him into adownward spiral of self-doubt and disgrace.
On many levels, Talladega Nights is reminiscent of Anchorman. Both films were directed byAdam McKay, both were written by McKay and Ferrell, and both feature Ferrellplaying a pompous big shot cut down to size who ultimately finds redemption. Ifthose comparisons aren't enough, each project lovingly satirisesits milieu (with
With a loose, generousspirit, McKay and Ferrell improve on their earlier effort: Talladega Nights has funnier set pieces as well as better throwawaygags than their spottier previous collaboration. Granted, McKay and Ferrellstill essentially make sketch-comedy movies - random bits of hilarity strungtogether on a fairly thin storyline - but at least they've improved theirquantity of good material, especially during Ricky's ascension to NASCARgreatness where Ferrell's skill at portraying buffoonish egomaniacs serves himwell.
But if Ferrell sometimesseemed to hog the spotlight in Anchorman, here his supporting cast feels moreinvolved. As Ricky's best friend, John C Reilly (better known for his dramaticperformances) shows no difficulty handling the dopey-sidekick role, and the twomen work well off one another.
But it's Baron Cohen - to beseen later this year in Borat- who gives the film acceleration. As with successful James Bond films, goodcomedies often need a juicy villain to elevate the proceedings, and the Ali G star is terrific playing amockingly stereotypical French snob who represents everything the flag-waving,beer-drinking Ricky detests. As a testament to Baron Cohen's importance to Talladega Nights, the film's second-halfdip can be partly blamed on his disappearance from the plot as Ricky withdrawsfrom the limelight to regain his confidence before the big third-act race.
With a budget reportedlyaround $85m - a high price tag for a comedy - Talladega Nights has spent its money wisely on startlinglyexhilarating NASCAR race sequences. While one would reasonably expect a certainamount of laughs from a Will Ferrell vehicle, the high-energy stunt work is agreat surprise, adding unexpected excitement and tension to an otherwiseproficient studio comedy.
Mosaic Media Group
Sony Pictures Releasing International
Clayton R Hartley
John C Reilly
Sacha Baron Cohen
Michael Clarke Duncan