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One spy hitches a ride with Ricky Bobby in TALLADEGA NIGHTS!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with another test screening review of TALLADEGA NIGHTS, which has apparently dropped all mention of Ricky Bobby in the title. I love me my ANCHORMAN, so I hope to love this one just as much. The usual yadda-yadda about early test screening reviews here... not finished, comedy depends on timing, etc. You know the drill. Enjoy the review with... say, lukewarm spoilers... below!!!

I just got back from the Sherman Oaks Galleria here in California and a test screening of the new Will Ferrell movie, Talladega Nights (“The Story of Ricky Bobby” is nowhere to be found onscreen).

First, a brief plot synopsis: Will Ferrell plays a cocky celebrity who has it all--friends, women, accolades--until someone new comes into his world and takes his place to become number one. This causes Ferrell’s character to question his abilities until wait, that was the plot of Anchorman, you say? Well, I hoped you liked that plot, because here it is again! Will Ferrell is Ricky Bobby, famed NASCAR driver, whose father (the amazing Gary Cole) was absent for most of Ricky’s childhood (except a very funny scene during Career Day at Ricky’s school as a side note, could there be a moratorium on Career Days to set up parent-child relationships in movies? Jersey Girl, City Slickers, Thank You For Smoking it’s cute, but let’s give it a rest for a while).

Anyway, Ricky Bobby eventually grows up, becomes the best NASCAR driver around, and along with his friend Cal (the very funny John C. Reilly), always wins races and tons of money. He has a hot wife, two horrible kids, and no cares in the world. Until Jean Girard (Sascha Baron Cohen), the gay French Formula 1 racer, comes into his world and takes over the top spot. After Ricky gets in a horrible wreck, he loses his nerve and leaves the sport to become a pizza delivery boy. Will he regain his abilities? Will his deadbeat dad come back to help him out? Will his best friend betray him by marrying his hot wife in an amusing subplot? Will he beat Jean Girard?

Who cares? If you’re reading this review, then you’re interested in this movie (presumably). And if you’re interested in this movie, then you’re either interested in a Will Ferrell comedy (a la Anchorman, not like Bewitched), NASCAR racing, or big summer comedies. So will it matter if I discuss the occasionally sloppy editing (it was a rough cut, though), the 2.40:1 widescreen framing, or the bland directing? No.

The point is, the movie is funny. Yes, there are certainly those obviously-improv jokes that go on too long, and the Will Ferrell “I am saying what is happening for humorous effect” jokes. But all in all, it’s an entertaining comedy that I felt was more accomplished than Anchorman. It does drag slightly after the big wreck in the middle of the movie, but it picks up. With the summer being somewhat dry in terms of comedy (Click and Strangers With Candy are all that comes to mind at the moment), this movie might be a nice alternative to superheroes and under performing superstars.

I am not a NASCAR fan, nor do I watch any racing, but the driving action in the movie seemed just okay. Some of the driving stunts were well done, but it often felt like big things would happen off screen (maybe some effects have yet to be put in?), and it was occasionally difficult to tell what was happening and which car was which but it was serviceable.

The acting was well done all around. Will Ferrell was very funny (and I’m not a Will Ferrell apologist), as were his on-screen kids. Sascha Baron Cohen was, as always, excellent (though being French isn’t as funny as they think it is). John C. Reilly was his usual amusing, clueless on-screen self. But as I mentioned before, Gary Cole is a comedy genius and should hereby be placed in all films from now on. As Ricky Bobby’s runaway father, he gets at least a chuckle every time he’s on screen.

So then what’s bad that might actually affect one’s enjoyment of the movie? There’s a lame, forced romance two thirds of the way into the movie that was entirely unnecessary and not set up in the slightest. And oddly enough, right before the climactic race, the writers completely let Sascha Baron Cohen’s character off the hook in terms of being a bad guy. In other words, while he wasn’t ever set up as the typical “completely bad opponent” in the movie, they make it so, in a way, Sascha Baron Cohen actually wants Ricky Bobby to win the final race which, while it sort of worked, was still an odd choice to make, tension-wise.

And as for the egregious amount of product placement I’m going to give the movie the benefit of the doubt and say that it’s making a point with the extreme amount of it throughout the movie (I mean, an Applebee’s commercial literally plays at one point in the movie). I can only hope that it’s satire.

But all in all, the movie is funny and worth at least a matinee screening with some friends. However, one does hope that the next time Will Ferrell makes a movie, it has a different plot.

If you use this, call me Skoobooz.

Readers Talkback
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  • May 24, 2006, 2:05 a.m. CST

    can't wait for this

    by iamnicksaicnsn

  • May 24, 2006, 2:51 a.m. CST


    by iamghetto

    getting close

  • May 24, 2006, 3:53 a.m. CST

    Saw this movie -- it was terrible

    by Doc_McCoy

    In fairness, it was a rough cut and post-production is more important in comedy than in most other genres so I'm sure it's improved since then.

  • May 24, 2006, 4:15 a.m. CST

    It's great.

    by TequilaMocking

    And the Applebees spot is really fucking funny, especially because of the "and now we cut to a commercial break" gag.

  • May 24, 2006, 4:21 a.m. CST

    What is up with all the comedies this summer?

    by andrew coleman

    I want more action and less stupid shit. The Breakup, Click, Nacho Libre, This Nascar crap movie and many others I can't name. I hope a number of these bomb so hollywood will go back to at least making action movies.

  • May 24, 2006, 4:56 a.m. CST


    by gavdiggity

    Anchorman was only mildly funny (Steve Carrell's performance was the best part of the movie), and Nascar is for people who can only make left turns. Wait, why did I bother posting in this talkback? Oh yeah, it's late and I'm an asshole.

  • May 24, 2006, 7:37 a.m. CST

    You hear that, Ed? Bears! You're putting the whole

    by chrth

    station at risk!

  • May 24, 2006, 7:58 a.m. CST

    Adam McKay

    by blackshuck

    Anchorman was feaking hilarious, and I think Will Ferrell still has some steam left, so I am really looking forward to this one. BTW I knew Adam McKay back in the Philly days-many drunken nights and lots of laughs. Proud to see a local boy make good...He and Paul F. Tompkins (Mr. Show) were about the best drinking buddies you could ask for.

  • May 24, 2006, 7:59 a.m. CST


    by blackshuck

    mr. petty

  • May 24, 2006, 8:17 a.m. CST


    by grendelson138

    I live about 40 miles from the track. Crowded interstates and drunk rednecks...twice a year. I hope this movie is the beginning of the end for NASCAR.

  • May 24, 2006, 9:35 a.m. CST

    Will Ferrel = Christopher Walken

    by Itchy

    I don't know what it is about the guy, but he makes me laugh just by being. There are 'comedic actors' who I enjoy, but who have to work to earn my laughs (Vince Vaughn, Steve Carrell, the Wilson brothers, Ben Stiller), but there are others who make me laugh regardless of what they do on screen. Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken are the best examples of this. Ferrell could sit on the crapper for two hours doing the New York Times' crossword puzzle and I would find it entertaining. So needless to say, I can't wait to see this movie.

  • May 24, 2006, 9:48 a.m. CST

    Hmmm, don't know about this one.

    by brycemonkey

    Does anyone else think Ferrel is very samey? Seems to do the same schtick, performance again and again. I hope this is good but he hits as often as he misses (IMO).

  • May 24, 2006, 10:57 a.m. CST

    Will Smiff woulda been a better choice.

    by JAGUART

  • May 24, 2006, 1:17 p.m. CST

    Too Soon!


    Dejavu. I feel like I say that a lot. But it is. Has everybody forgotten what happened to . . . one of those guys who was a famous NASCAR racer and died? I'm still broken up about it.

  • May 24, 2006, 1:22 p.m. CST

    Product placement

    by magic34015

    Just a thought. I might be stating the obvious, but the prodcut placement could be there as a joke ude to the fact that every nascar car has a thousand sponser logos on them.

  • May 24, 2006, 2:18 p.m. CST

    This is STROKER ACE 2006

    by Ed Okin

    Is Will Ferrell obsessed with Burt Reynolds? If so, he can check out this website: (no www. on that) ...and so can you! Yay!

  • May 24, 2006, 3:27 p.m. CST

    Seeing this cause of Spidey 3 teaser....

    by vinceklortho

    and I hope this is good as well. Me likes Anchorman and two good things about this movie have me all positive: Sasha Baren Cohen and Amy Adams. Spidey 3 teaser better show something good, too.

  • May 24, 2006, 5:21 p.m. CST

    Ali G Aight?

    by quadrupletree

    I had NO interest in seeing this movie till I found out Sascha Baron Cohen was in it. It just went from DVD rental to matinee for me. I can't wait to see that Borat movie!!!

  • May 25, 2006, 1:55 a.m. CST

    Stewie will slap you... funny.

    by walshiereloaded

    I hope this is funny. Season 4 of family guy when stewie doesn't find bewitched funny - then proceeds to find will ferrel only to punch him. Now that was funny. Funny. funny