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August 8, 2006 > Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

by Jeremy Inman

One of the best parts of my job here at TCV is getting to see movies for free, so it's a pretty strong testament to the entertainment value of a film when I'm willing to go back to the theater on opening night to shell out ten dollars to catch another showing. In the case of Talladega Nights, that's exactly what happened. I attended a press screening Thursday night, then went with a group of friends the very next day and laughed just as hard the second time through.

Talladega Nights marks the second collaboration between co writers Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, the team that brought us Anchorman back in 2004, with McKay directing and the always-funny Ferrell starring. Like Anchorman, Talladega Nights tells the story of an ordinary man overcome by pride, who finds through a series of humbling events, true meaning in his personal and professional lives. In Anchorman, it was 1970s hotshot news anchor Ron Burgundy. This time around, it's the speed-addicted win-a-holic Ricky Bobby, fastest driver in the National Association of Stock Car Racing (NASCAR).

Throughout his life, Ricky Bobby only wanted one thing: to go fast. Hell bent for speed and prone to win or crash, Ricky's world is turned upside down when his boss hires a new driver for his team, a gay Frenchman named Jean Girard, played by Sacha Baron Cohen, perhaps better known as his onscreen HBO alias: Ali G. On top of being an affront to everything a red-blooded American like Ricky believes, this new driver just may be better than the fastest man in NASCAR.

With the help of his friends and teammates, including Michael Clark Duncan and John C. Reilly, and his dead-beat father,  Ricky struggles to overcome his debilitating pride and earn back the respect of his loved-ones and competitors.

The story and concept for this film differs very little from that of Anchorman, so if you didn't like Anchorman (you're crazy!), steer clear of this one too. Actually, it's only  the second in a proposed "Mediocre American Man" trilogy from McKay and Ferrell, the third of which is yet to be announced. But, also like Anchorman, this is a film that you can watch again and again and still find hilarious.

These guys, along with their somewhat regular supporting cast members, present a specific brand of comedy that is highly appealing. They shoot many takes of the same scene with the actors ad-libbing key segments of the dialogue. Then they piece together the funniest takes in the editing room. This approach lends a charming and comfortable joking-around-with-your-buddies sort of feel where even the actors onscreen can often be seen trying to contain their own laughter. While some might view these moments as mistakes, I ask you to consider how much harder you laugh when a performer on SNL cracks during a skit, like they often did during Ferrell's stint as a regular cast member. The only real effect is that the audience can tell that the film makers believe in the humor of their film. They had a good time making it which translates into us having a good time watching it. The result is a fun, light-hearted send-up of the world of NASCAR and a movie that will likely turn out to be one of the funniest films of the year.

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