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As you know, I am not known as an aficionado of movies starring ex-SNL comedians except, of course, for Bill Murray. I avoid Adam Sandler movies like the plague. But having seen the trailer for Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby like 100 times, maybe I got brainwashed. Anyway, I thought the trailer was funny enough to give this movie a try, and apparently so did the rest of America since this movie did $47 million of business on its opening weekend. Well, what can I say? Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is the funniest movie to come along in a long time. Don't get me wrong. This is not the usual quirky comedy that I try and get you to see. With the exception of one joke (see below), this movie has no intellectual humor. It is very stupid and very funny.
In case you are the only person who has not seen the ubiquitous trailer for Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, this movie tells the story of a NASCAR driver, Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell), who isn't very smart and just wants to go fast. As Ricky Bobby's assistant (Amy Adams), about to become Ricky Bobby's girlfriend says, "Ricky Bobby is not a thinker. Ricky Bobby is a driver." This pretty much is all you need to know about Ricky Bobby. That and the fact that for some reason just saying, "Ricky Bobby" is funny. He was raised by his mother (Jane Lynch) after his father (Gary Cole) abandoned them. Ricky Bobby and his best friend (John C. Reilly) become the best two drivers on the NASCAR circuit. Ricky Bobby has it all. As he says in a prayer, "Dear Lord Baby Jesus, I want to thank you for this wonderful meal, my two beautiful sons, Walker and Texas Ranger, and my Red-Hot Smokin' Wife, Carley." But it all comes crashing down when Ricky Bobby loses a race to an openly gay French driver (Sacha Baron Cohen), is in a fiery crash and then gets divorced after his wife (Leslie Bibb) leaves him for his best friend. Ricky Bobby must then try to conquer his demons and return to the track with the help of his deadbeat father.
I didn't have to give such a detailed description of the plot but I just like saying, "Ricky Bobby." The plot doesn't really matter. The movie is just funny. I was laughing out loud through most of the movie along with the rest of the audience. And Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby doesn't let down halfway through the movie like many other comedies do. This one is funny right up to the ending credits, where they show some funny out-takes. The cast, led by Will Ferrell, is great. There are even three Oscar nominated actors in this movie, John C. Reilly (Chicago), Michael Clarke Duncan, who plays Ricky Bobby's pit boss, (The Green Mile) and Amy Adams (Junebug). Sacha Baron Cohen, best known as Ali G, plays Jean Girard with the worst French accent ever. But it works here, and even though every stupid comedy is all about gay jokes, in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby there's a difference. They are funny gay jokes. And Cohen gets the one non-stupid joke when during one race, as he drives at 200 mph, he is reading L'Etranger by Albert Camus. Only I and the two highly educated people who accompanied me were laughing at this point in the movie. Ricky Bobby's two kids, Walker (Houston Tumlin) and Texas Ranger (Grayson Russell) are both great and have some of the best lines in the movie. Why Walker and Texas Ranger you ask? Well, otherwise, they would be named Dr. Quinn and Medicine Woman. Duh.
There are entertaining things to look for throughout Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Watch for the cameos by Mos Def, Elvis Costello, and, of course, many real NASCAR drivers. And that's Pat Hingle playing the elderly owner of Ricky Bobby's race car. I didn't know he was still around. He's played many roles including Commissioner Gordon in the Batman movies. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby has more "product placement" than any movie in history. If you've ever watched a NASCAR race, you'll know that the cars and drivers are driving and walking billboards for many different products. They take this to an extreme for laughs in this movie but they are mostly real products. And Applebee's is the bravest company to let their logo get abused, since Fedex let one of their planes crash in Cast Away.
Usually in this kind of movie the few good jokes are all in the trailer. But Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is not the usual. The writer/director Adam McKay, also an SNL alum, and Will Ferrell should get a lot of credit for the writing.Well that's about it. Sorry I used so many of the jokes from the movie in this review but there are lots more where those came from.