The latest Oscar-winner to come from Will Ferrell's camp, The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is a moving story about a man who falls from the top and works his way back up again, regaining his glory and respect in the process. Who knew that an Oscar-wining picture would be about an imbecile race car driver who loses his seat as the best NASCAR driver around, and that the title of the film would be Talladega Nights?
Will Ferrell, in a riveting, dominating performance, will unfortunately fall second to the completely unworthy Leonardo DiCaprio for The Departed. His mastery on the screen is unquestioned, though, and it is only a matter of time before he holds the golden statue of wonder. John C. Reilly, as the wife-stealing idiot friend, rightfully deserves his supporting nod.
Sadly, Talladega Nights will never be described that way. A film that is high above expectations yet not nearly as funny as some of Ferrell's other "classics", Talladega Nights has some funny moments, appropriately makes fun of white trash NASCAR America while at the same time glorifying it, features some good crashes, and... that's about it. There are no classic scenes or one-liners to the same degree that can be found in Ferrell's hits such as Old School and Anchorman. The sequence where Ferrell runs around his underwear as if he is on fire is humorous, but certainly not mind blowing. The dialogue, while funny at times, really isn't as good as one would expect.
Still, Talladega Nights rises above expectations for me. I have been waiting for a while now for Ferrell's popularity to fade, as his style of humor is essentially single track and bound to become tiresome at some point. He makes things funny by saying simple lines very loudly, and while still rather effective, he is bound to go away one of these days. Additionally, as someone who absolutely does not understand the appeal of NASCAR, or why it is shown on ESPN when it is not an athletic sport (then again, why is poker shown on ESPN?), I was even more turned off by the idea of a NASCAR movie, even if the film is intended to poke fun at NASCAR fans. That being said, Talladega Nights is entertaining, whether it be the crash sequences, the idiot pairing of Ferrell and Reilly, or the goofy father-son relationship that is developed here.
Talledega Nights is certainly not Ferrell's best movie and it lacks the perfect ingredients that have made some of his other films so successful. Nevertheless, the movie is entertaining from beginning to end and offers enough laughs to make it worthwhile.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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