October 28, 2006 -- “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” is a silly, but entertaining comedy about a dim-witted race car driver and his dysfunctional family and friends. The comedy is generally good-natured and even the real NASCAR drivers in the film seem to enjoy being in on the joke.
The story begins with young Ricky Bobby being born in the back of a race car speeding towards the hospital, with the driver, Ricky Bobby's father, Reese (played by Gary Cole of “The West Wing” TV series) screaming “Waahoo!” at the top of his lungs. When Ricky Bobby grows up, he also likes to scream “Waahoo!” and drive real fast. In fact, that is about all he is interested in, even as a child. There are some funny bits when Reese shows up at Bobby's school to tell his classmates what he does for a living (part time race driver and drug dealer. We flash forward to Ricky Bobby (played by Will Ferrell of “Old School”) as an adult when he gets his chance (in a very unlikely manner) to become a big time race car driver with his best friend, Cal Naughton, Jr. (John C. Reilly of “Chicago”).
Everything goes swimmingly at first for the two drivers as they win many races and make a lot of money. Ricky Bobby marries a beautiful woman and they have two children who are both brats. Then, a new driver appears on the scene, a gay French Formula One driver named Jean Girrard (Sacha Baron Cohen of “Borat”). That's when things change and Ricky Bobby faces some big changes in his life. The message of the story is vaguely psychological, with Ricky Bobby having to overcome his fear of racing. He also learns that he misunderstood his father's message that winning is everything. The film also emphasizes the importance of family.
The movie has some impressive racing scenes, featuring some spectacular crashes. The filmmakers got cooperation from NASCAR to make the movie, including access to pits and garages. The crew was able to get actual racing footage, too. The production used 35 race cars for the film, used to stage races and wrecks. Much of the film was shot at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina. A number of real stock car drivers appear in the film. This is not to say the racing scenes were exactly realistic. The racing scenes in the movie are loaded with the kinds of exaggeration and ridiculous situations one would expect from a broad comedy. In addition to broad comedy, the film has some sharper insights into the commercialism of stock car racing. In one scene Ricky Bobby races a car with a large advertising decal on the windshield, making it difficult for him to see the road. This film rates a C+.
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