Celebrity NASCAR racer Ricky Bobby (Ferrell) was born in a speeding car, so its hardly surprising that velocity should be his mistress. He has a stone-cold fox of a wife (Bibb) and the best friend a guy could ever hope for (Reilly), but when gay French
Here’s a tenuous critic’s theory for you: Will Ferrell’s only proper funny when he’s wearing an obvious wig. Evidence? Anchorman, Zoolander... wigs galore. In Kicking & Screaming and Bewitched, there’s not a syrup in sight. Talladega Nights is the latest exhibit to support this theory. In the canon of Ferrell’s absurdist comedies, The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby — which sees him sporting only mildly silly sideburns and a mini-beard — sadly rates as a minor entry.
It especially suffers when compared with Anchorman, from the same director (Ferrell’s fellow SNL alumnus, Adam McKay). Sure, this is more tightly scripted, and it’s technically superior to Anchorman in that it actually has a plot, high-octane race sequences and even a camera-trick or two. But there was a charm to Anchorman’s happy, scrappy, mostly studio-bound nature, and its freewheeling improv vibe at least meant the gags came thick and fast, so any misses were quickly forgotten amid the guffaws from the next hit. Not so here.
It has its moments. There’s a great dinner-table discussion about how everyone in the Bobby family likes to envision Jesus during grace, and, as Ricky’s assistant, Junebug’s Oscar-nommed
Amy Adams reveals her comic talents rather late in the film with a fiery but ludicrous inspirational speech. John C. Reilly also proves himself a ‘straight’ actor with surprising comedy-improvisational talents, yet he’s never the equal of a Carrell, a Stiller, or a Wilson. Sacha Baron Cohen, though, is lumbered with a character which smothers his full comic talent — you’ll have to wait for the Borat movie to see that.
At the centre of it all is, of course, Ferrell. His Ricky Bobby is a well-enough-observed redneck gearhead, and he allows himself some smirk-worthy freak-outs. Most of the time, though, his shouty silliness and ad absurdum riffing are suppressed as Ferrell forces Ricky through a by-numbers sports movie plot, while McKay’s presumably distracted by all the stunt work. Both, it would seem, were too focused on revving the movie’s big, shiny engine to notice its tyres have been let down.
On the Ferrellometer, Talladega Nights sits just above Kicking & Screaming, when it should be redlining it up there with Anchorman.