Talladega Superspeedway. For those unfamiliar, it is NASCAR's biggest and fastest race track, and the setting for the latest Will Ferrell comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. I'm no fan of professional racing, but I do know funny. Put Will Ferrell in the driver's seat of a stock car, cast John C. Reilly (so wonderful in Chicago) as his best friend, and pit Sacha Baron Cohen (best known as Ali G.) as his rival and you can be almost guaranteed a good movie.
Here's the deal Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) is born in the backseat of a souped-up Chevelle. His motivation in life is given to him when he is ten years old by his alcoholic father: "If you ain't first, you're last." This mantra carries him to the pit crew of a losing race team. When he's given the chance to finish a race, Ricky shows that there isn't much he won't do to win. Teamed with his best friend Cal Naughton, Jr. (Reilly) they become 'Shake and Bake' and go on to NASCAR super-stardom. Ricky has the perfect life. A sexy wife, a family, riches. Enter Jean Girard (Cohen), a flamboyant Frenchman who begins to unravel Ricky's perfect world by beating him on and off the track. Ricky is forced to deal with his own fears. And a cougar.
What's this, you say? A Comedy? Sounds more like the 'feel good' movie of the summer! Perhaps I failed to mention that Jean Girard is a gay married man (Andy Richter plays his husband in a decidedly underwritten role) who sips espresso while he races. Or that Ricky and his wife Carley (the hot Leslie Bibb) have two delinquent sons named Walker and Texas Ranger. And how about the cougar? Oh, I know I mentioned the cougar! All this and more mixes together very well under the comedic eye of Adam McKay, who wrote (along with Ferrell) and directed.
Talladega Nights takes the whole All-American-Dream concept and makes it funny. It's Rudy with belly laughs. Better yet, it's the Anchorman of car racing, which makes sense since McKay did that movie, too. A lot of the scenes felt improvised, but by seasoned professionals. And with a great cast that included Gary Cole and Amy Adams, the jokes were constant and seamless. From an extended dinner grace addressed to 'tiny, baby, Christmas Jesus' to Molly Shannon's portrayal of the drunken wife of the team owner, the movie never failed to make you laugh. As an added bonus, this movie also has some great action. The race sequences were very believable and the crashes were amazing.
To be completely fair, there were moments when some of the scenes dragged a little. And some characters you will not like as much as others. But all in all, an enjoyable, laugh out loud experience for anyone 13 years and up. Shake and Bake, baby!