Dauntless comic Will Ferrell throws himself into another funny foray as the title character in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. This loose, stress-free story was co-written by director/star Adam McKay. Ferrell also co-wrote the screenplay, which has a lot of comedy and a great ensemble cast, but the uneven, scattershot story produces some noticeable bumps.
John C. Reilly (Days of Thunder, Anger Management) plays Ricky’s teammate/childhood friend Cal Naughton, Jr. Reilly adds some helpful character depth while anchoring Ricky’s “win at all costs” victories. This popular, “shake and bake” duo gain a large fan base, which makes their wealthy owner and his son jealous. The successful duo also attracts a new rival, French racer Jean Girard, played by Sacha Baron Cohen (a.k.a. Ali G, Borat, etc.).
Michael Clarke Duncan (Armageddon) plays Lucius Washington Ricky’s crew chief. This lovable giant provides even more appeal amid the comedic moments. Lucius’ three main subordinates are Herschell, Kyle and Glenn, played respectively by David Koechner (Anchorman), Ian Roberts and Jack McBrayer (Arrested Development television series). Ricky’s family provides even more support, both in minimal main character development and comedy.
Veteran actress Jane Lynch plays Ricky’s mother and Gary Cole (The Brady Bunch Movie) plays Ricky’s father. Both characters supply the biographical background for Ricky while reconnecting with their successful son to help him in current crises. Ricky’s wife Carley, played by Leslie Bibb, and sons, Walker and Texas Ranger, shine at the family dinner scene.
Filmmakers recruit additional comedians (Molly Shannon, Andy Richter, etc.), musicians (Elvis Costello, Mos Def) and, of course, real NASCAR drivers (Dale Earnhardt Jr., Darrell Waltrip) to boost the entertainment value. You might even recognize recent Academy Award nominee Amy Adams (for Junebug) who has a prominent role in the movie’s second half.
Some rough scene transitions and awkward conflict resolutions make the movie seem like a collection of skits instead of a complete story. The large supporting cast gives Ferrell plenty of comedic support/targets who create enough laughs for an enjoyable experience. The authenticity of the racing, stunt work and special effects ranks surprisingly high for a Hollywood comedy.
Filming locations in North Carolina and Talladega, Alabama bolster the realism and excitement that has moved NASCAR into the mainstream. You don’t have to be a racing fan to enjoy this comedy, but you’ll definitely get a more complete experience. Recommended with reservations (**1/2) and rated PG-13 for comic violence, crude humor, sexual/drug references and language.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler