In case you haven’t noticed, Will Ferrell has kind of lost it. Not in the Mel Gibson “I’m only making movies in dead languages now, sugar tits” sort of way, but Ferrell’s streak of can’t-miss comedies came to an abrupt end following “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy.”
That’s why when trailers for “Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby” hit theaters last year, fans of Ferrell’s better comedic work were understandably excited. The trailer was funny, showing scenes that promised NASCAR satire and displaying with a solid supporting cast, including Sacha Baron Cohen (you might know him as Borat) and the underrated John C. Reilly (“Magnolia”). It looked like it was on its way to becoming a surefire hit.
But then it was released in early August of this year, and, well, it wasn’t so great. “Talladega Nights” isn’t a bad comedy – it’s just not a good one.
The film follows the story of fictional NASCAR superstar Ricky Bobby (Ferrell), and like only a sports movie can, navigates through the ups and downs of his skilled career. At his side is teammate and best friend Cal Naughton Jr. (Reilly). Things start to fall apart for Bobby when Euro-racing sensation Jean Girard (Cohen) moves to NASCAR and challenges Bobby. Girard also happens to be gay, which goes over in NASCAR country, like, um, a gay person in NASCAR country. Cohen seems like a natural fit for the role, but like Ferrell’s Ricky Bobby, his character fails to deliver on its comedic potential.
It seems Ferrell and co-writer/director Adam McKay (“Anchorman”) didn’t push the NASCAR lampooning as far as they could have – a disappointing lack of satire that definitely hurts the film. But it’s really no surprise, considering it carries NASCAR licensing and has to appease both blue and red states. In order to get to NASCAR accessibility and fans’ approval, the film couldn’t completely attack the culture.
These concerns aside, the plot itself is certainly capable of handling an entertaining comedy, and while the film does have a few moments here and there, the vast majority of its funny scenes were given away in the trailer. Anyone not living in a vacuum for the past year will be disappointed with the film in its entirety.
Those who couldn’t get enough of the film during its theatrical release – or the trailer for that matter — will find a DVD with a decent amount of relatively standard special features. Included are some mock interviews with Cal and Ricky, a featurette of Will Ferrell’s return to Talladega Superspeedway before the film’s release, some rightfully deleted scenes, a gag reel and some stock racing footage synchronized to the lamest heavy-metal Columbia could find.
The one exception to the otherwise ordinary feature set is the film’s commentary. Instead of a traditional track that almost no one would listen to, Ferrell and company instead approach it as a faux 25-year reunion. It isn’t really that funny when McKay, Ferrell, Reilly and Michael Clarke Duncan (“The Green Mile”) play aged versions of themselves, or in McKay’s case (he, apparently, was eaten by a hammerhead shark), his son; but if nothing else, they deserve credit for trying something different.
On the front of the DVD case, Ricky Bobby hails “Talladega Nights” as the “BEST MOVIE EVER MADE.”
Unfortunately, this comes from the same guy who also thought “Highlander” was the best movie ever made. You may want take that with a grain of salt.
FILM: 2 out of 5 stars.
SPECIAL FEATURES: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby