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Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Whereas Will Ferrell & Co."s Anchorman only seems to click on way-past-your-bedtime HBO, Talladega Nights clicks on most cylinders, and the star shows why he"s mainstream comedy"s best hope to bring in the money and the funny.


Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) has been hotdoggin" since the day he was born--when, legend has it, his momma (Jane Lynch) popped him out of her belly in the back seat of a car. Now grown up and living his dream as a NASCAR driver, he takes his swagger out onto the tracks, with mixed results. Even though he and lifelong friend Cal (John C. Reilly) usually end up in first and second place, respectively, his owner deems him a financial liability after he finishes a race in reverse. Consequently, a prim, proper and gay French F-1 driver (Da Ali G Show"s Sacha Baron Cohen) is recruited as a new investment, and Ricky gets in a horrific crash trying to beat him, winding up paralyzed…in his mind. After a long road back--which sees Cal steal Ricky"s lady (Leslie Bibb) and limelight and Ricky reunite with his estranged racer dad (Gary Cole)--Ricky learns to leave showmanship, homophobia and pyrophobia (fear of fire) in his dust, and just drive the damn car!


Ah...Will Ferrell in his total element--it"s a beautiful thing and one we haven"t much seen since SNL. Until now. In Talladega, Ferrell brings his energy, satire and out-of-the-blue pop-culture references to new highs in his best post-SNL performance yet. And if you close your eyes and listen to Ferrell"s faux South-speak, you can hear his great George Dubya send-up of yore. Matching Ferrell scene for scene--in quality, not quantity--is Reilly. With his role as a tractable doofus with a good heart, Reilly has now completed the whole spectrum of roles and can be unequivocally branded an acting chameleon. Oddly, he seems best fit a tractable doofus, but that"s merely a testament to his abilities. Cohen"s biggest mainstream role to date is also a hit, as he applies equal parts Ali G"s Borat and hyperbolic French stereotype for often hilarious results. And Amy Adams stars as Ricky"s neglected assistant; it"s a role so small that she must"ve signed on before Junebug took her to the Oscars.


If, after his hit "70s San Diego news show, Ron Burgundy were to have done something to necessitate placement in a witness protection program, it"s not inconceivable that he could've relocated to the South, found his true calling as a pompous NASCAR driver and taken the fake-sounding name Ricky Bobby. That"s no coincidence: Talladega, like Anchorman, is written by Ferrell and Adam McKay, who also directed. But the two have filled in the blanks from their previous collaboration for a more well-rounded effort. The duo best complement one another when it comes to Ferrell"s sense of humor; it is, at its core, drier than most care to realize, but the co-writers manage to moisten it in such a way for all to thoroughly enjoy. What really separates this film from its predecessor, though, is the action--the racing scenes will surprise! And to that end, McKay uses the NASCAR angle to reel in its massive contingency as well as Ferrell/comedy fans, all of whom should go home happy.

Bottom Line rated this film 3 stars.