This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
A mildly irritating aspect of my near obsessive-compulsive behaviour when it comes to films is a nagging need to write about everything I watch, even when I’ve little to say or when little needs to be said. This tragic flaw often leads to rambling introductory paragraphs of obvious padding, of which this may well be a prime example.
Talladega Nights is, in a nutshell, this year’s silly comedy vehicle starring one or more of Will Ferrell/Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson, following the Zoolander/Anchorman/Starsky and Hutch/Wedding Crashers bloodline, as is the summer tradition. From that you can probably garner all that you really need to know about what Talladega Nights entails and how much you’re liable to like it.
Still here? Well, I’ll keep writing, but I’m not sure what good it’ll do you. Ricky Bobby (Ferrell), the ballad of whom the subtitle speaks of, was born to speed. Breaking into the world of high speed roundabout navigation that is NASCAR, Ricky and childhood best friend Cal Naughton, Jnr (John C. Reilly) soon propel themselves to perpetual first and second place dominators of the sport. Things seem dandy, until team owner Mr. Dennit (Pat Hingle) hands over the reins to his objectionable son Larry (Greg Germann) who tires of their lack of respect. He brings in redneck Ricky’s antithesis and soon to be arch-nemesis, the stylish, suave, sophisticated (for the purposes of this film, at any rate) gay F1 import Jean (Sacha Baron Cohen).
Rattled by this newcomer, Ricky loses his cool, loses a race and after a nasty crash loses his confidence, his job and his wife, to Cal. Returning home, he seems resigned to a life of pizza delivery until his deadbeat speedfreak father Reese (Gary Cole) shows up from a prolonged period in the wilderness, using his inimitable booze addled techniques to cure Ricky’s mental blocks and get him back on track, while Ricky’s mother (Jane Lynch) straightens out his brattish offspring. Sort of like The Waltons, but with cougars and offbeat shenanigans.
There are some people who don’t take any joy in the Ferrell/Stiller/Wilson axis of offbeat shenanigans, and this does not deviate from formula often enough (or at all, really) to change anyone’s mind. Box office returns would seem to put these folks into the minority, and in fact would generally indicate you are Mark Kermode, in which case you could always cheer yourself up by watching The Exorcist again. For everyone else, you can watch this and laugh like a drain.
Okay, it’s hardly pushing any envelopes and while consistently good only very rarely hits the continual, inspired lunacy of the last Ferrell / Adam McKay team up, Anchorman. Sacha Baron Cohen never really gets to be more than a broad accent, which was provoking unwelcome Pink Panther flashbacks, but that’s the only real weak point. John C. Reilly proves as ever to be reliably excellent support, Ferrell’s on form close enough to top as to make little difference and Cole turns out to be a revelation.
In short, it’s as funny a film as you’re going to get this year. This may be seen as a damning indictment of the year thus far, and I suppose it is, but the truth of the matter is that I at least chortled throughout and guffawed often. My position on bellylaughs, tittering and cachinnation will remain blissfully untouched. Okay, it won’t change your life, but it ought to make it a happier place for a few hours.