Monday, 28 September 2020
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Tuesday, 08 August 2006 18:00

Go Ricky Bobby go!

Perhaps the reason Will Ferrell is so good at playing a big, dumb, innocent galumph is because, when the cameras role, he becomes the galumph. It’s quite surprising how many characters he can create by tapping into that childlike wonderment he expresses so well. Whether playing Mugatu in Zoolander (“That Hansel is so hot right now!”), creating a new family classic as Buddy the Elf, or sexually harassing his co-host in Anchorman, Farrell must be credited with diving whole-heartedly into every role he plays. His newest satirical comedy throws him into the seat of a simpleton NASCAR driver in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

From the second he is born in a speeding car on the way to the hospital Ricky Bobby has known one thing; he wants to go fast. Those first thoughts become his slogan as he grows up, especially when his father shows up after ten years and leaves him some words of wisdom. “If you’re not first you’re last.” When Ricky gets the chance to drive a NASCAR his need for speed makes him a bankable winner, earning him big bucks and a gold-digging trophy wife. His best friend Cal (John C. Reilly) is also a driver and doesn’t seem to mind too much that he’ll never be more than a second place sidekick.

Life is perfect for Ricky Bobby and he thanks the Baby Jesus every day for his money, his “red-hot smokin’ wife” and bratty sons Walker and Texas Ranger (T.R. for short). Ricky prefers picturing Jesus as a cooing infant and doesn’t want anything to do with grown up Jesus. It doesn’t hurt that in times of crisis he prays to every deity he can imagine including Tom Cruise and Oprah Winfrey. Ricky’s life gets turned upside down when a fancy Formula Un driver named Jean Girard arrives from France (Sacha Baron Cohen, better know as Ali G.)

Now this movie has quite a bit going for it already but Cohen takes it to the next level. This guy is a riot. Every time he was on screen I laughed and every line he delivered was funny. The realm of NASCAR could use a French, openly gay, macchiato-guzzling driver whose car is sponsored by Perrier. If such a person existed in the real world he would probably suffer a sudden death involving a suspicious car malfunction.

When Ricky Bobby isn’t busy getting beat up by and losing races to Jean Girard, he is fending off Girard’s insatiable desire to kiss him full on the lips. I only wish we had seen more of a flouncing Andy Richter as Girard’s husband.

Talladega Nights isn’t only a successful comedy, but a successful satire of the bio-pic. We’ve become accustomed to the bio-pic format through movies like Ray and Walk the Line. Ricky Bobby follows the formula perfectly showing flashes of a lonely childhood giving way to a fast rise to stardom. From there a speedy crash into the depths of despair forcing him to rise again stronger and better than before. Being treated as a drama makes comedy a whole lot funnier.

As a side note the racing scenes are fast and exciting, and done just as well as you would expect to see in any action film. It actually made me think for a minute that I might enjoy NASCAR… but only for a minute. Sorry - noisy cars going fast just don’t do it for me! But Will Ferrell facing off against Ali G does.

I give Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby 7 out of 10 stars.