Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

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Review #205 of 365
Film: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby [PG-13] 110 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $13.75
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When 1st Seen: 4 August 2006
Time: 11:00 p.m.


Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word or less review of this film]
Years and years ago, I conceived of a notion that former cast members of Saturday Night Live were enduring a curse. The curse which I call the Former SNL-Cast Member Curse, causes every other one of each cast members' films in which they are the starring character to be an utter disappointment. Well, it doesn't hold up perfectly, the curse is uneven, nonetheless, there is something too it. Will Farrell's last leading starring role in a film was, Bewitched. So, I had predicted that Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, would be fantastic. Given my history with comedies of this genre, for example, I admit that I detested Anchorman and Old School; and, given my penchant for political correctness and being respectful of all people, I was concerned that this latest comedy from director and co-writer Adam McKay; wouldn't sit well with me. I can honestly say that this is the first politically incorrect comedic film at which I laughed myself senseless. Seriously. To say otherwise would be to lie, and the very annoyed audience members sitting around me would post messages demanding a retraction. The reason I was able to laugh so hard was that the satire was so rich, well-conceived, and blatant as to there being no way to mistake it for satire. To give a quick example, recently I got into a big of a tiff with a pal of mine who was arguing the brilliance of Clerks II. Huh? Yeah, so anyway, seriously, I used the example of a very unsavory segment of the film where Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) is astonished to learn that a certain expression he's very fond of that I'm not even going to repeat here because it's so awful, is actually a derogatory expression for people of African American descent. It was very, very hard for me to tell what point Kevin Smith was trying to make with that segment. Was he saying that we make too big of a deal out of these old expressions? Was he saying that these old expressions can now be reborn in new ways? I have no clue. Well, there is no way to miss the point of the satire in Talladega Nights. It is absolutely clear. Also, there is nothing in the film that even begins to border on the depravity present in Clerks II, just as an aside. So, yes, I laughed so hard it hurt. My only qualm on this would be that the trailer gave away too many of the jokes, and gave implications to some that are not presented the same way in the film. In any case, those were minor qualms.
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"…I laughed myself senseless…one of the funniest films in a decade."
While the preview gives the sense that Ricky Bobby (Will Farrell) is always a natural, turns out he begins his life on the track in the pit. When the loser driver of the Wonder Bread® car gives up because he's in last place, the pit chief, Lucius Washington (Michael Clarke Duncan) asks for a volunteer to take over. Cal Naughton, Jr. (John C. Reilly), Ricky's best friend since the 4th grade, eggs him on to jump in the car. Which he does and comes in third overall. And thus begins the Ballad of Ricky Bobby. In no time at all, he's a multimillionaire driver for the Dennit racing team, he's convinced Mr. Dennit Sr. to sponsor another car driven by Cal, he's married to "smokin' hot" Carley Bobby (Leslie Bibb), he's got an amazing mansion, he's got two sons, Walker and Texas Ranger, and he's the apple of his mama's, Lucy Bobby (Jane Lynch), eye. The movie sets its pace, tone, and future in a scene which captures all of this as the Bobby family sits down for a Sunday dinner of Domino's® Pizza, Kentucky Fried Chicken®, and Taco Bell®. They are all adorned in their Power Ade® jackets, Cal has joined them for dinner as has Carley's curmudgeonly father, and Ricky is about to say grace. The grace, one of the longest I've heard since my Uncle Bob gave grace at Thanksgiving in Albuquerque at my grandparent's house that including a long reading from the Bible and was ended after 20 minutes when my youngest brother, Chase, fell out of his high chair and onto the floor whether out of boredom or out of the good graces of God, in either case, my Poppie said, "Amen, past the potatoes," and everyone burst out laughing. Chase was okay, he has a very thick skull. So, goes Rick's grace that involves uttering "baby Jesus" around 67 times. The scene is as hilarious as it is obnoxious. Which is part of the charm of the film; for, in the end, everything that comes around goes around. The beginning of the end for Ricky comes in the form of gay, French, racecar driver Jean Girad (Sacha Baron Cohen) who comes to America as hired by the son of Mr. Dennit, Larry Dennit, Jr. (Greg Germann) to do something Ricky cannot seem to do, win the Nextel Cup with points. Perfectly open with is orientation, Jean moves to the USA with his partner Gregory (Andy Richter) to compete head on against Ricky and prove he's not the best race car driver in the world. It only takes one race for Ricky's entire world to come crashing down on him. That's all I'll say, because saying any more would ruin the twist and the finer points of the rest of the film. I will say, that the obnoxious, brazen, self-important Ricky, will undergo dramatic and worthy growth by the end under the guidance of his ne'er do well father, Reese Bobby (Gary Cole).

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"I have three DVDs on the way to my house right now."
--Cal Naughton, Jr.
"That's pathetic, I've got six smokin' hot HD-DVDs at my mansion waiting to be popped into my Sony® HD-DVD player hooked up to my super Atomic Fireball® Stereo Surround-Sound Bose® Speaker system that can knock the fur off the hind legs of a cougar from 300 yards before I even turn it up full blast. "
-- Ricky Bobby

As you can probably tell, in keeping with another unique and record-breaking aspect of the movie, this review will have more advertisements and product placements than any other in history. In fact, Talladega Nights never goes more than about 10 seconds without a product placement. The ironic thing is that this is perfectly in keeping with Nascar® as Nascar® is all about placing as many product advertisements in as many locations as possible, and believe it or not, there are people paid to watch and count the numbers of times the various logos for the various companies appear on screen whether they be as patches on the uniforms, the bumper of the car, or a poster on the speedway track. So, I found the product placements hilarious and apropos.

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Will Ferrell is hilarious as Ricky Bobby. He absolutely becomes him instantly. He adopts the philosophy of his character handed down by his father just after his presentation at career days after which he was thrown out of the school by security for telling the kids not to listen to the teacher because she was just trying to turn them into losers, "either you're first or your last" and he runs with it. The chemistry between all of the cast members worked perfectly creating an ensemble feel despite a focused plot. This is first and foremost the ballad of Ricky Bobby. Adam McKay and Will Farrell delivered a potent script with scathing satire and jokes-a-plenty. I doubt the film will appeal to the teenage males that loved Old School quite as much, but it will appeal to those of us a bit older and more seasoned in our senses of humor—older people, you know, but not THAT much older, you know like those in our late 20s, early 30s, and by early 30s, I mean early 40s because they say 40s are the new 30s. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is one of the funniest films in a decade. I cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard, so loudly, for so long in a movie. It's not high-brow fair, but it's a rip-roaring good time.

"Seriously, what are you waiting for, order a poster. Nothing looks better on the wall of the game room in your 5,280 sq. ft. mansion."
--El Diablo aka Ricky Bobby

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Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) Review-lite [150-word cap]
Rich, well-conceived, blatant satire Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is the first politically incorrect comedic film at which I laughed myself senseless. Ricky Bobby (Will Farrell) becomes an over-night sensation and multimillionaire racecar driver with a "smokin' hot" wife, a mansion, and two 'charming' sons. Unfortunately, he's also self-important, obnoxious, and arrogant to a fault. In the end, everything that comes around goes around. And for Ricky the beginning of the end arrives in the form of French, racecar driver Jean Girad (Sacha Baron Cohen) who competes head on against Ricky to prove he's not the best in the world. Will Ferrell is absolutely hilarious as Ricky Bobby. Indeed, the chemistry between all of the cast members worked perfectly creating an ensemble feel despite a focused plot. Talladega Nights is one of the funniest films in a decade. It's not high-brow fair, it's a rip-roaring good time.

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