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Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Leslie Bibb, Amy Adams

Directed by: Adam McKay

Produced by: Judd Apatow, Jimmy Miller Christian Colson

Written by: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay

Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing


     Not since last year's The 40-Year-Old Virgin had I laughed so uncontrollably for such long spans of time at a movie as I did when watching Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, the latest incessantly funny Will Ferrell vehicle to reach multiplex screens. In the meantime, I chuckled at a lot at films--the recent Clerks II comes to mind--but had never completely broken down in the tears of hysteria that I did during the crowning scene of this one (trust me, you'll know it when you see it). Ferrell is in full form here alongside his friend and usual-director, Adam McKay, unafraid to reach for the stars when it comes to crafting the most obnoxious, over-the-top satire ever seen in contemporary cinema. While Talladega Nights is also highly observant of American Society, especially for a NASCAR-paody, its main focus is getting every laugh that it possibly can. And, because it's so damn hilarious, we can all be thankful for that.

     Ferrell plays Ricky Bobby, a NASCAR pit-crew-member who becomes a celebrity when he wins a race filling in for the driver he works for after the driver quits mid-way through. As his promotional-deals and numbers of wins stack up thereafter, Ricky garners popularity that transforms him into a self-indulgent hot-head. However, Ricky's arrogant self-proclamation of being the Best NASCAR Driver Ever is challenged when gay, French Formula-1 star Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) enters the league in attempts to be the victor in the season's Point Standings. The competition between Ricky and Jean creates tension in Ricky's home-life, causing his relationships with best-friend and fellow-driver Cal (John C. Reilly), trophy-wife Carley (Leslie Bibb), and sons Walker (Houston Tumlin) and Texas Ranger (Grayson Russell) to fracture. The plot sets up situations that are mainly staged for Will Ferrell to perform his always-welcome, hysterical, and outrageous physical-comedy schtick, but makes some strangely profound (and humorous) comments about culture as well. From Cohen's elitist characterizations of his foreign, homosexual nut-case to the dialogue heard at The Bobby Family Dinner table, Talladega Nights slides in several witty remarks about Commercial Culture's attitude towards different types of people.

     Talladega Nights may all be fun and games at the end of the day, but its worth should not be undervalued. Unfortunately, comedies like this are often overlooked because of their silly appearances. Great comedy is often harder to come by than great drama and, because of this, universally-funny motion-pictures deserve the highest amount of recognition possible. I'm not sure that Talladega Nights is a giant among its genre, but it's surely a damn funny movie, certain to bring a smile to just about any viewer's face. It's good to see Ferrell back in a project that invites him to be completely and utterly ridiculous; I'm not sure if I could've stood this film had it resembled last year's half-hearted and understated Bewitched, which completely disagreed with his comedic-style. Thankfully for both its protagonist and filmgoers, this movie is anything but a loser.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (8.19.2006)

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