10 February 2016 | jimbo-53-186511
Hits a few bumps from time to time, but in the main it's pretty funny
Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) and Cal Naughton Junior (John C Reilly) are life long friends and teammates on the NASCAR circuit. They are both the best drivers on the circuit and regularly finish first and second - this is down to their Shake and Bake method that they employ in order to take out the lead racer. Cal selflessly allows Ricky to win every time meaning that Ricky is dubbed the hero and is the one that hogs the limelight. However, their reign at the top is threatened by the arrival of ace French driver Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen).
Adam McKay has dabbled in satire previously with the original Anchorman film and its more recent sequel. These films were mostly successful in this respect as well as being reasonably funny. For me, McKay has been less successful when he's dabbled in other genres - his buddy cop film The Other Guys was beyond awful. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is McKay's satirical look at the sport of speedway which thankfully does work fairly well...
For me, Will Ferrell is a frustrating actor as I find that he can either be really irritating or fairly amusing. His performance very much depends on the material that he's given and the director that he works with. McKay seemed to allow Ferrell to be more natural in both Anchorman and Talladega Nights resulting in Ferrell being allowed to be funny and sort of endearing rather than being outright annoying likes he's been in other films. Sacha Baron Cohen is also excellent here in what can be described as fairly comfortable territory for him - he's essentially playing another quirky character with a ridiculous accent and most importantly entertains the audience whilst doing it. Baron Cohen plays a gay character here, but actually manages to make his character funny without being nauseating or over-the top (like he was in Bruno). Leslie Bibb plays the stock clichéd empty-headed shallow trophy-wife in such an over-the-top way that she's actually quite fun to watch. McKay's characterisation here is spot on and what they lack in depth they do make up for by just being fun to watch.
McKay takes some risks here by casting a character that's gay and actually making fun of the character for being gay but I found many of the jokes to be relatively inoffensive and many jokes here lean to being more suggestive or being used by way of double-entendre (which are arguably smarter ways to gain laughs). Ricky's foul-mouthed kids do grate a bit from time to time, but McKay does address this issue when the kids met their grandmother and she gives them some much needed discipline.
The film does lose some momentum in the second half when things start to fall apart for Ricky and we see him trying to re-build some of the remnants of his shattered life and career, but thankfully there are still plenty of amusing scenes (his dad coaching him and his scenes as a pizza delivery guy were funny and still helped to keep things moving).
All in all, Talladega nights may not keep the laughs consistently coming and at close to two hours it is a little on the long side, but despite the generous running time the film still moved along relatively smoothly and I still found plenty to enjoy here.