Talladega Nights – Unashamed Silliness

Talladega Nights – Unashamed Silliness

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  1. People love him and people hate him… but mostly people laugh at him.  He is Will Ferrell and he has made many films that some consider to be comedy classics.  Talladega Nights:  The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is Adam McKay’s 2006 comedy featuring Ferrell and his good buddy John C. Reilly.  You wouldn’t expect a film like this to get all kinds of critical acclaim, but it did win some very interesting and unexpected awards.  It won the ESPY for Best Sports Movie and even won the World Stunt Award for Best Work With a Vehicle.  You don’t expect a comedy to win a World Stunt Award, and before Talladega Nights, a straight-up comedy had never won Best Sports Movie (Bend It Like Beckham won in 2003 but that’s more of a drama).  The next year, a Will Ferrell movie won again:  Semi-Pro (2008).  Since then no other comedies have won Best Sports Movie at the ESPYs.

    What is it about?

    On the surface Talladega Nights is about a NASCAR driver, Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell), that quickly makes it to the top because of his intense drive to win (pun intended).  He lives by the creed:  if you ain’t first, you’re last.  He gets his best friend, Cal (John C. Reilly), a gig as the second driver on his team but always uses him to get the win… Ricky never lets Cal win.  When the owner of the team, Dennit Jr. (Greg Germann), hires a French Formula One driver (Sacha Baron Cohen) to be the new face of Dennit Racing, Ricky’s skills are put to the test.

    What the film is really about is friendship (and other stuff, but we’ll focus on friendship).  The friendship between Ricky and Cal is very one-sided at first with Ricky just using Cal for his own benefit.  Then, as Ricky’s life falls apart, Cal gets his moment in the spotlight.  But, as Ricky changes, he is able to see through all the things that they have put each other through and remember why they were friends in the first place.  It’s actually rather touching in the end.  The film also warns about the dangers of arrogance and celebrates the drive to succeed for the sake of success itself, not for power or money.

    Is it any good?

    If you like Will Ferrell’s brand of comedy, you will love Talladega Nights.  If not, you will be forced to brush the film off as stupid… because it is very stupid.  A lot of what happens in the film doesn’t make any logical sense in real life, so it’s good that films aren’t real life.  The illogical nature of the story is part of what makes it funny.  Comedy, in general, takes reality, twists it into something that you don’t expect, then parades that around as reality.  Talladega Nights does this perfectly.  Some things get too silly, though.

    Just like any other Will Ferrell film, ad-libbing is the norm.  That’s why there are always "line-o-rama" bonus features on the DVDs.  It seems that Adam McKay lets the actors try various takes plugging in their own one-liners at different parts of the film and it works.  What makes it so great is that Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are not only hilarious individually, but they work flawlessly together.  They make a spectacular comedy team!

    What are some of your favorite quotes from this film?  

    Nolan’s Grade:  B-

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