Saturday, August 05, 2006

"Talladega Nights"

If the extremely (and sometimes sublimely) silly "Talladega Nights" proves anything, it's that Will Ferrell doesn't just get by with a little help from his friends, he desperately needs them.

When he's surrounded by more talented people, like John C. Reilly, Amy Adams and especially Sasha Baron Cohen, he's at the top of his game. He can trade banter with the best of them, and he and co-writer and director Adam McKay keep it fast, ridiculous and often very funny at the beginning and end of this one.

If you've ever watched NASCAR, you're familiar with the plot (what little there can be in a movie about guys who, let's face it, are just really good at turning left.) Our hero Ricky Bobby is on top, takes a fall and, sort of, gets back up again.

What makes the ensemble scenes around the track work is that everyone is clearly in on the joke. Reilly is clearly having a blast as Ricky Bobby's sidekick, Cal Naughton Jr., and it shows. I don't think the man can work any more often as he already does, but it's always a joy to see him.

It's in the middle, when it's pretty much just Ferrell (with a little Gary Cole thrown in as his no-good daddy), that's it's painful to watch. Up until now, when I've seen him in good ensemble movies like "Old School," Ferrell's always been the kind of guy you'd wanna have a beer with. But as Ricky Bobby, he's so desperate for attention that he becomes the kind of person who, when they call, you make up any possible excuse so you won't have to hang out with them. He's just that annoying.

It doesn't help that the series of supposed rehab exercises that Cole puts him through to get him back on the track are so stupid that they can't possibly be funny. If ever a movie was screaming out for a montage, this one is it.

To get us out of this funk it takes a rousing speech from Adams (to the tune of Journey, of course), pretty much the first words she gets to say in the entire movie. It's a very funny scene, and I'm sure that if she gave me that speech and then ordered me to rob a liquor store, I'd at least have to give the idea some serious consideration.

But, as cute as she is, Cohen is the real star here. As the French Jeff Gordon and Ricky Bobby's rival, he steals the movie from the minute he walks in and announces he's a "Formula Un" driver. A movie this silly won't attract any attention from Oscar voters, as well it probably shouldn't, but Cohen's performance here is at least as good as Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow.

The final verdict: "Talladega Nights" was funnier than I expected, and is perfectly made for DVD, so you can fast-forward through Will Ferrell's chance to sap the life out of this one, of which he takes full advantage, and just enjoy the goofball antics around the tracks.

P.S. It was nice to hear Steve Earle at several points in this one, but the choice of "Valentine's Day" and "Hardcore Troubadour," which are perfectly fine songs, didn't fit in with the movie at all. Why not his "Sweet Little '66," easily one the best songs ever about fast cars. Even better, the Drive-By Truckers' "Daddy's Cup," penned by the Stroker Ace Mike Cooley, would have fit just perfectly.


Wendy aka Cheeky said...

Thanks for stopping by

rayslucky13 said...

Can't wait to check out this flick!!! Thanks for stopping by my blog. Thanks for the positive comment,I enjoy and respect your reviews.

Terence Towles Canote said...

I have to agree with you about Will Ferrell. I think he is definitely one of those comic actors who needs an ensemble to really be effective. Long ago I decided to only watch his movies on DVD (the miracles of fast forward...).

Reel Fanatic said...

I've joined that faction, now, Mercurie, but he at least made a great decision when he teamed up with Reilly, easily one of my favorite actors

egm said...

This is very revealing about Will in terms of what he is like on screen. Like I pointed out in my post, I have never really watched him on big screen, and the free pass I got was the only reason I went to see Talladega Nights. Old School is the only movie of his that I have seen (on dvd), so I am definitely not familiar with his movies. I've only seen his SNL skits.

Thanks for the visit, by the way.

Lala's world said...

thanks for stopping by my blog. My hubby and I watch a ton of movies and not just the A-list but love the lower budget movies even more!

we saw this Sunday night and were disappointed. All the funny shots were on the trailers and we found ourselves groaning more than out loud laughing. I agree though that John C Reilly and Cohen really out shined Ferrell with Cohen being who we were the most entertained by.

Anchorman so far is my favorite Ferrell movie!

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