Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby (12A)



Comedy (2006)
107mins US

Starring: Will Ferrell, John C O'Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Leslie Bibb
Director: Adam McKay
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby has always abided by his father's mantra: "If you ain't first, you're last." He is the best racer on the NASCAR circuit, until flamboyant Frenchman Jean Girard screeches into town and causes Ricky to take one too many risks, culminating in a terrible crash. Ricky loses all of his confidence, as well as his money-grabbing wife, who settles down with his best friend Carl Naughton Jr instead. With the love and support of his two sons, and his old man, Ricky must rediscover his confidence behind the wheel and assume his rightful place at the front of the grid once more.

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LondonNet Film Review

Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby
The high stakes, high-speed world of NASCAR racing provides at unlikely comedy pit stop for Saturday Night Live alumni Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, co-creators of the newsroom spoof Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy...

John C. Reilly (l) Leslie Bibb (c) Will Ferrell (r) in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Copyright:  2006 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.Against a backdrop of tyre changes, daredevil overtaking manouevres and burnin' rubber, the screenwriters contrive a conventional tale of sporting triumph against the odds, souped-up with scatological visual and verbal humour that should rev the engines of anyone who enjoyed their earlier film.

I wasn't a great fan of Anchorman and the same is true of Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby, which at times resembles a multi-vehicle pile-up of misfiring gags and gratuitous product placement. Rarely has a film given so much screen time to the shameless advertisement of foodstuffs, from the colourful logos that adorn the racers' protective suits and cars, to the name-checking of fast food outlets in dialogue.

Ferrell and McKay's peculiar brand of comedy relies on a profusion of absurd one-liners ("I like to think of Jesus as an ice dancer dressed in an all-white jumpsuit!") and sporadic pop culture references, like when Ricky runs around the racetrack in his underpants, convinced he is burning, and screams, "Help me, Tom Cruise! Use your witchcraft to get the fire off me." On paper, it doesn't sound very funny; on film, with Ferrell mugging for all his worth, it's little better.


The eponymous hero is Ricky Bobby (Ferrell), son of "semi-professional stock car racer and amateur tattoo artist" Reese Bobby (Gary Cole), has always abided by his father's mantra: If you ain't first, you're last. Ricky is the top driver on the NASCAR circuit, until flamboyant gay Frenchman Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) screeches into town and causes Ricky to take one too many risks, culminating in a terrible crash. Ricky loses all of his confidence, as well as his money-grabbing wife Carley (Leslie Bibb), who settles down with his best friend Carl Naughton Jr (John C Reilly) instead.

With the love and support of his two sons, Walker (Houston Tumlin) and Texas Ranger (Grayson Russell), and his old man, Ricky must rediscover his confidence behind the wheel and assume his rightful place at the front of the grid. Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby is fuelled by the childlike charm of Ferrell's tomfoolery, which frequently grates, and Cohen's scene stealing.

Every once in a while, gags accelerate smoothly and hit their target, like when Carley's father Chip (Manson) admonishes his grandsons Walker and Texas Ranger for speaking to him without due respect, and Carley defends the boys, "If we wanted wusses, we would have named them Dr Quinn and Medicine Woman." Or when Ricky mistakenly believes he is paralysed from the waist down and tries to prove his point by stabbing himself in the leg. His screams continue in the end credits out-takes, swept up from the cutting room floor, where they undoubtedly belong.

- Heather Von Bourne


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