[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B000KCI8Y8][/pullquote] Originally making his name on Saturday Night Live, Will Ferrell transitioned into feature films and found great success with Anchorman, Elf and Old School. Talladega Nights: The Ballard of Ricky Bobby is one of a succession of Ferrell comedy vehicles involving sports, following on, as it did from Kicking & Screaming and directly proceeded by Blades of Glory and Semi-Pro. Whilst the quality of his films have deteriorated over time, he remains the second highest-grossing comedian of the current era behind the impossibly popular Adam Sandler.
Talladega Nights follows NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby (Ferrell), a man obsessed with winning. He and teammate Cal Naughton Jr. (John C. Reilly) rule the NASCAR circuit due to a pact to keep Ricky at number 1. However, ex-Formula 1 driver Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) arrives on the scene leading to a ˜blow-out’ for Ricky and the emergence of Cal as his natural successor. With his life in tatters, Ricky must regain his talent for driving to overcome his ex-protÃ©gÃ© and new foreign nemesis.
The plot synopsis makes the film sound like a dramatic setting. It is not. This is played entirely for ridiculous laughs throughout and generally it succeeds. The main three cast-members are on good form, with Cohen being the stand-out in amongst the established Hollywood stars. It is a simple sports-film plot which plays out in a satisfying way, and provides a fair few laughs along the way. Like a lot of Ferrell comedies there appears to be a lot of ad-libbed material, which for these seasoned veterans works impressively.
Whilst the acting is passable, the plot standard and the jokes funny in general, it never pushes the boundaries of comedy. It lacks the genius one-liners of Anchorman or the grounded, somewhat realistic elements of Old School. In fact this is where Talladega Nights and so many others slip-up. In order to have this many characters acting in a, frankly, bizarre fashion, you have to have a ˜straight guy’ grounding their silly antics. You need a Mitch Martin (Old School) or a Veronica Corningstone (Anchorman), unfortunately all the characters in Talladega Nights are as ridiculous as the next.
It’s not a disappointing film by any stretch and it’s a comedy and it will make you laugh, but in the absence of the ˜straight man’ or any really memorable laugh-out-loud moments all you’ll remember from Talladega Nights is the odd quote and the general feeling that you’ve watched something that’s a bit silly and probably should’ve been better given the casting.