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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

eFilmcritic Archive: "Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby" (2006)




Well, okay, the thought crossed my mind a couple times, but the answer kept coming up, “Not quite as funny as ‘Anchorman’.” That may well be the case, but it’s still far funnier than anything else out there right now. Yes, even funnier than “Lady In The Water.” From these two movies, it has become evident that the key to Ferrell’s success is having his partner Adam McKay (the co-writer and director of this film) lurk somewhere in the background on all his projects. McKay has always been able to tap into that weird side of Ferrell and push it in the right direction.


The big difference between this film and “Anchorman,” though, is that it has more of a storyline. Ferrell’s character Ricky Bobby is an equally dense, but more good-natured buffoon than Ron Burgundy. His father Reese (Gary Cole) abandons him at an early age, but not without giving him some sage advice: “If you don’t come in first, you come in last!” With this competitive streak running through him, Ricky Bobby becomes a racecar driver. Eventually, he becomes rich and famous for it, obtains a trophy wife (Leslie Bibb), has two kids, Walker (Houston Tumlin) and Texas Ranger (Grayson Russell) and maintains a loyal friendship with his buddy Cal Naughton, Jr. (John C. Reilly).


Of course, once he gains it all, he eventually has to lose it all. Competing against him is a pompous, gay, French guy named Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen), who runs Ricky right off the track and into a fit of madness that causes him to run aimlessly around in his underwear. This instills in Ricky a great fear of ever returning behind the wheel ever again. Naturally, he loses his house and his wife over it and has to return to living with his mother, Lucy (Jane Lynch). Soon, Ricky’s father makes a comeback in his life and an admirer named Susan (Amy Adams) finally comes out of the woodwork.


Normally, that would be giving away too much of the storyline, but that remains secondary to the absurd universe in which Ferrell and McKay exist. But just as they did with “Anchorman,” the rest of the cast has been given plenty of opportunities to shine. You know you have a great comedy when you walk out trying to pin down who was funniest. Of course, Ferrell, Reilly and Cohen have numerous great moments, but so does Michael Clark Duncan. Gary Cole adds another brilliant comic creation to his resume as the beer guzzling Reese. It’s a wonder this guy can’t get his name above a title yet. The great Molly Shannon shows up to play the rude, drunken wife of a team owner (Greg Germann). There’s no reason for her to always be drunk, but she is anyway. Even the luminous Amy Adams (who should have won an Oscar last year for “Junebug”) has been given a great comic monologue to make up for her otherwise underwritten role.


There’s no reason to get into what makes this movie funny. Movie reviews are the worst when it comes to describing what’s funny in a film. Seriously, do you want me to give away the jokes? No. It’s safe to assume that if you don’t like Will Ferrell, you probably won’t like this movie. For the rest of us, we all have something fun to go see with a big group of friends. Most comedies these days strive for that sort of adulation, but few achieve it. Owen Wilson can’t do it. The Wayans Brothers are like comic kryptonite. “Nacho Libre” had moments. “Talladega Nights” is actually worth the price of admission…if only for that scene with the cougar. I can’t describe it. You have to be there.


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