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Review: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)

Directed by: Adam McKay

Premise: NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) rises to the top of the racing world until he is challenged by a French driver (Sacha Baron Cohen).

What Works: This is another comedy that, yet again, has Ferrell playing a lovable idiot. Ricky Bobby is a particularly endearing idiot, and the character has been created more fully than any other Ferrell role, except maybe Buddy in Elf. The laughs are constant and the film is able to maintain the humor in ways that Ferrell’s other films have not. One of the ways it is able to do this, and one of the key strengths of Talladega Nights, is its great supporting cast. John C. Reilly plays Cal, Ricky Bobby’s old friend and his role with Ferrell is one of best comedic pairings since Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber. Also good are Leslie Bibb as Carley Bobby, Ricky’s NASCAR wife, and Gary Cole as Ricky’s father. The film spreads out the gags and allows each of these characters to contribute something to the film.

What Doesn’t: Although the character of Ricky Bobby does change through the course of the story, he never achieves consciousness of his idiocy. Of course, it is necessary for the film to maintain Bobby’s ignorance, but as a result the film’s character arc chases its tale as Bobby attempts to reclaim his old life rather than come to new place.  

Bottom Line: Talladega Nights is easily one of the best films that Ferrell has been involved with and it is one of the best films of the summer. It is mostly a popcorn film, but it excels at that.

Episode: #106 (August 13, 2006)