Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Is it wrong that I expected this film to be much smarter than it was? No, really, I did. I thought it was going to be at the level of, say, Anchorman, at least in its parody and absurdity. And there’s something slightly smart to be said for comedies of this nature. But I was very, very disappointed by Talladega.

It had so much potential! It could have been a hysterically funny satire on the absurdity of NASCAR and NASCAR-influenced red states, and it actually started out as such. But as the movie wore on, it got dumber and dumber, actually catering to the supposed crowd it was making fun of rather than sticking to the making-fun-of-them bits. I did laugh, however, at the dinner table scene. Will Ferrell’s character insists on praying to infant Jesus, even though his bombshell wife points out how weird it is to pray to an infant. And the fake ads that John C. Reilly and Ferrell did together, for everything from tampons to Chinese food, were fantastic. In both of these instances, I think it’s safe to assume that Ferrell was allowed to riff to his heart’s content, which probably means that the lines were improvised and thus far more golden than the rest of the terrible script.

Speaking of terrible, how about that Sasha Baron Cohen’s accent? And what the hell was Amy Adams doing in this movie? And Michael Clarke Duncan? Gary Cole? Jane Lynch? These people are legitimately great actors. I’m not sure why they were involved with this thing.

One other thing to note: The product placement was maybe the most prevalent thing about the movie, but it was actually not bothersome at all. In fact, it provided the movie’s most interesting commentary on American culture. Obviously NASCAR itself is wrought with brand names and corporate weight, so the portrayal was authentic. But the movie itself must have cost a boatload to make, what with all the car crashes and prop cars and leather costumes and crowd scenes and paying all those big actors a lot of money. So it makes sense to have so many corporate sponsors, perpetuating the Hollywood machine and allowing them to make a blockbuster like this one. Welcome to America.

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