Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby Movie Review
It’s been a rough patch. Kicking and Screaming felt like a generic vehicle for the latest sitcom star. “Let’s make people feel good about kids losing at soccer.” Bewitched was a mistake all around. “Let’s make a movie about fake actors making a fake remake of Bewitched and then turning into the characters. That oughta’ be funny.” He fit in Wedding Crashers because that was his group, but there was no stealing that show from Vince and Owen. Melinda and Melinda was a valiant effort. His half of the movie was actually good.
Talladega Nights creates a true Will Ferrell character, and sets him and his crazy colleagues off in an otherwise normal world. Ricky Bobby is the son of Reese Bobby (Gary Cole), a speed demon drug dealer absentee father. Born in a fast car, he always wanted to go fast, and finally gets his chance when a NASCAR loser bails in the middle of a race. What follows is an underdog rags to riches journey of self-discovery, Will Ferrell style.
Ricky Bobby is a different character for Ferrell. He’s not a total innocent like Buddy the Elf. He’s not an overt sleaze like Ron Burgundy or a flamboyant drunk like Frank the Tank. Ricky Bobby is like a savant, truly talented at one very specific thing and a total moron about anything pertaining to real life.
It’s not necessarily driving that is his skill. It’s winning. The Bobby family are extreme winners. All they know how to do is win. It’s all they talk about, even in their pre-dinner prayers.
Putting Ricky Bobby, his similar buddy Cal Naughton (John C. Reilly), his gold digging trophy wife (Leslie Bibb) and his smart-ass kids in the world of NASCAR is the perfect comic opportunity. There are enough characters taking the NASCAR world seriously to give Ricky and his crew ample juxtaposition. His team owner and the pit crew leader actually talk about sponsors, business and technical issues while the others are goofing off.
The racing scenes are really fun, full of crazy stunts like Smokey and the Bandit. Elaborate computer-assisted camera moves create a real world of cinematic racing in which the rest of the nonsense can play.
The story really follows Days of Thunder, with a few generic sports movie elements thrown in. And something about it works. As silly as it is, there’s enough heart to Ricky Bobby’s world that Talladega Nights makes you laugh and cheer at the same time.