Will Ferrell stars as Ricky Bobby – a man who wants to go fast. The slightly dim guy who loves to race catches his big break and becomes the best driver on the NASCAR circuit, which leads to fame and fortune. Along with his best friend for life, Cal Naughton, Jr. (John C. Reilly), the two are unbeatable as Ricky Bobby wins every race, and Cal helps him, but always comes in second. Just as everything seems to be going well for Ricky Bobby, his whole world comes crumbling down after a new nemesis emerges, unbeatable French Formula One driver Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen a/k/a Ali G). Then, he has an accident that shakes his confidence and leaves him psychologically broken.
Will Ricky Bobby be able to bounce back and become a champion again?
Talladega Nights:The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is a funny movie, but doesn’t quite live up to its potential. Co-writer/director Adam McKay and Ferrell (who gets a writing credit for the movie) seem to have 3 hilarious ideas for the plot, but don’t quite flesh out each one. We have the battle between Jean Girard and Ricky Bobby, which could have been handled as a spoof of the Rocky movies or any other film where the underdog has to work hard to defeat his insurmountable foe (complete with a silly montage). Then, we see Ricky Bobby’s relationship with his absentee father, Reese Bobby (Gary Cole), which has some of the funniest scenes and gives Cole the kind of lines that have you rolling in the aisles. Finally, we see the Cain and Abel relationship between Ricky Bobby and Cal, who might like to get out from under Ricky Bobby’s shadow one day to win a race, which needed the most background and development to pay off. Each one has funny moments, especially the hilarious scenes of Reese Bobby training Ricky Bobby for his big comeback, but I think there’s more to all of it, and one of these plots needed to emerge as the main story with more jokes, more scenes and more laughs.
Also, how about some more NASCAR jokes? I know the studio, Columbia, and Ferrell might be afraid of alienating the people most likely to go see Talladega Nights:The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (NASCAR fans), but, if done with love, a lampooning of the sport, especially parts fans know can be the fodder for hilarity, would be just perfect. They touch on some of it, like the in-your-face sponsorships, but some jokes about interactions between the racers, more jokes about the pit crews and some commentary about “rubbin’ is racin’” would make Talladega Nights:The Ballad of Ricky Bobby complete.
Ferrell does his best to create a funny, wild character in Ricky Bobby, but he needs more dialogue and less whooping and hollering. He finds moments to entertain us, but it’s as if he passed all of the best material to his co-stars, and it shows as they deliver the best lines in the movie. Houston Tumlin and Grayson Russell, who play Ricky Bobby’s sons Walker and Texas Ranger, are fantastic as the most foulmouthed, smart alecky brats you will ever meet, while Cole is perfect as the alcoholic father who brings a zen-like approach to training his son.
Talladega Nights:The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is funny, and well worth going to see, but it could have been so much more with a little more work and imagination. Also, the movie gets an addition ½ Waffle for a fantastic Elvis Costello cameo.