Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby was reportedly shopped around to studios with a six-word pitch: "Will Ferrell as a NASCAR driver." That sums up the entire takeaway of the film. It's Will Ferrell being Will Ferrell. With fast cars.
Ricky Bobby (Ferrell) is a simple and self-glorifying NASCAR star who's always had a need for speed. With an inherited life motto from his dad of "If you ain't first, you're last," Ricky believes winning is everything. And winners, he reasons, can do whatever they want and have whatever they want. But soon, his reign as the hedonistic king of NASCAR is threatened by a new challenger—the homosexual French driver, Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen).
So, the important question: Is it funny? Oh yes. While not as funny as Anchorman (also written by Ferrell and director Adam McKay), Ferrell's over-the-top, no-holds-barred wackiness carries the movie. He again falls back on his trademark Doofus Everyman role, the cartoonish and innocently aloof exaggeration of a real person set in a world of absurdity. The script has some clever moments, like lampooning sports films' knack for long, slow-motion action sequences and Karate Kid-like training sequences. But it's very likely that most of the film's biggest laughs weren't ever written in the script, but came out of on-camera improv between a cast that obviously had a blast filming.
However, the laughs don't add up to much. They don't stick with you, because there's no meaning behind them. Instead, the movie is just 105 minutes of bawdy absurdity for absurdity's sake. While Ferrell's Doofus Everyman bit is funny, it's a joke that gets old. As Anchorman's Ron Burgundy, Ferrell found ways to keep the character fresh. And perhaps part of the credit ...1
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