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Frat Pack Tribute Movie Review: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Review by Rick Duran

In Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay collaborate for another adventure of comic lunacy. While this film doesn't match the heights of their previous collaboration, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, it does provide many big laughs and Ferrell shines as yet another well-intentioned buffoon.

Will Ferrell plays Ricky Bobby, NASCAR's reigning champion who prides himself in being number 1. After a bad crash and a mental breakdown, Ricky Bobby retires into obscurity, allowing his foe (Sacha Baron Cohen) to become NASCAR's newest success story. During this segment of the film, Ricky travels back home to his mother (Jane Lynch), and seeks out his deadbeat father (Gary Cole, who gives the film's biggest scene-stealing performance.) While Ferrell and Cole play well off each other, the film's departure from the NASCAR setting drags down the pacing. Spending so much screen time away from the racetrack detracts from the great comedic performances by Cohen and John C. Reilly.

Reilly brings big laughs as Ferrell's best friend, Cal Naughton Jr., reminding us that he's gifted in comedic roles, as he is in dramatic. Reilly's scenes at the Bobby dinner table and in the hospital are very humorous, which is why we miss him after Ferrell heads back home. Reilly provides a decent, dimwitted soul to a character who wants the victories Ricky enjoys. Cohen is also hilarious, combining two of his strengths: playing gay and foreign characters. While his role is essentially a caricature of stereotypes, the way he delivers each of his lines has amazing comedic appeal, twisting pronunciations too difficult to understand. Just watching Cohen pronounce "Rrrickee Bubby" is one of the funniest aspects of the film.

While Cohen, Reilly and Cole all hold their own against the always amusing Will Ferrell, some of the best lines are delivered by the two boys playing Ricky's sons, Walker and Texas Ranger (Houston Tumlin and Grayson Russell.) These two boys have little to do besides deliver crass one-liners, and they do so perfectly. Their funny moments highlight one of the areas lacking in the film: the supporting cast didn't have many opportunities to shine. David Koechner is on-screen for a supporting role, but has the lines equivalent to a cameo. Michael Clarke Duncan is given one outburst in the hospital and plays it straight for the rest of the film. With the exception of one high-speed speech, Amy Adams doesn't have much to work with. I don't recall if Andy Richter had any lines (though, in the film's defense, Cohen tongue was always down his throat.) While the four male leads (Ferrell, Reilly, Cohen and Cole) impress, the rest of a very talented supporting cast never had the chance to be effective.

Another issue with the film is it's pacing. The Frat Pack men are all talented improvisational actors, with their classics like Anchorman, Wedding Crashers and The 40 Year-Old Virgin having many of their best lines being unscripted. Talladega Nights also has many scenes where it's clear that Ferrell, Reilly and Cohen improvised their lines. One of the film's funniest scenes, the dinner table debate about Baby Jesus, loses some of its steam, running about a minute overtime. While the scene is hilarious, its pacing feels like a Director's Cut DVD outtake. There are also pacing issues with the scenes reconnecting Ferrell and Cole. That's not to suggest the film's improv-heavy scenes detract from the humor. The Ricky and Cal ad spots ("If you don't chew Big Red, f**k you!") in addition to many of Cohen's lines ("Be my Katie Couric") play to the strengths of this very comedically gifted cast. The scene where Reilly and Duncan remove a knife from Ferrell's leg is an example of this cast (and director McKay) taking a predictable scenario and crafting it into one of the most memorable moments.

But the big question is, will Frat Pack fans enjoy this film? Yes, absolutely. After some bumpy career choices in 2005, Will Ferrell is back where he excels: playing stupid, yet sweet heroes. While the joke pacing is slower than Anchorman, we're still given Will Ferrell stabbing his own leg, running in his underwear, being mauled by a mountain lion and kissing Sacha Baron Cohen. Pacing and supporting cast issues aren't as important to Frat Pack fans as long as hilarity ensues. It's a NASCAR comedy, with plenty of intricately filmed race scenes and easy-to-digest humor. Ferrell and McKay continue their successful partnership, and have picked up a talented new collaborator in John C. Reilly. Hopefully their next project will have a little more comedic acceleration to score a 5/5 in the winner's circle alongside the true Frat Pack classics.

***

Talladega Nights On Set Photo Gallery - Exclusive

Photos and Text Courtesy Cybill Besse

I am a huge “Frat-Pack” fan from Charleston, South Carolina. I LOVE your site, thanks for keeping it going…It is kind of my little mission now to make it in “Frat-Pack films”, as an extra and maybe someday a speaking role (I’m taking acting now, it could happen…) Anyway, since I can only, obviously try for the East coast flicks, I was excited to read, on your site, about Evan Almighty filming in Charlottesville, Virginia. I’ve just gotta go for it!

The pix I have attached are of me and my scene partner, Nicole, in the most amazing “fight” scene in the upcoming ‘”Talladega Nights…” Like a little blessing, this movie was filmed primarily in Charlotte, NC. David Koechner was also a sweet potato and posed with us. If I could, I would absolutely vote him into the Pack! We got to meet Will, John C. Reilly, David Koechner, and Sacha Baron Cohen. They are hysterical in this movie. They were also cool enough to sign my “yee-haw” boots I wore in the scene. My daughter, who goes to the school of the arts, here in Charleston, loved showing off the autographs to her “Drama” friends. Anyway, I had the time of my life meeting these guys and watching them in action…And Adam McKay too, OMG…So much improv…So much fun! I just wanted to share with fellow fans.


Cybill (right), Nicole, and David Koechner

Talladega Nights - Tennessee Premiere Photo Gallery

Photos and Text Courtesy Cybill Besse

I have something else for ya’…I took a freelance writing assignment from our local paper. It was basically my story as a “regular mom” doing something fun/different like being a movie extra. Anyway, to complete my whole experience of being in this film I wanted to experience a “red-carpet” event. I went to the Premiere in Knoxville, TN and had a blast!! I wouldn’t have known about the “southern premiere” without you guys, Thanks!


Cybill Reenacts Ricky Bobby's Catch-Phrase "If you Ain't First, You're Last"


Cybill with Daughter Madeleine