Tuesday, August 01, 2006

MovieWatch: "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby"

"Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby"
Director: Adam McKay
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 60
In a Nutshell: "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" is, I think, a more cohesive film that Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's earlier collaboration, the equally cumbersomely titled "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy." I'm not sure if that's necessarily going to be a selling point for the terrifying percentage of the populace capable of quoting whole scenes from "Anchorman," a practice that is, if nothing else, much less annoying than the dweebs quoting "Napoleon Dynamite." But anywho... What I mean is that "Talladega Nights" actually seems to have a plot, rather than just a series of events joined together by absurdist plot digressions and clearly improvised scenes that McKay just couldn't bring himself to cut. "Talladega Nights" is an underdog sports movie through-and-through and it follows most of the rules of the genre and most of its plot points, but even if it seems a bit more structured, nobody will ever confuse the movie with having had a shooting script. The improvised moments shamble along, as Ferrell banters with actors who obviously can keep up with his free-wheeling approach (John C. Reilly, Gary Cole and Sacha Baron Cohen are the obvious standouts) and those who can't (Leslie Bibb is hot, but wooden and Michael Clarke Duncan is, regretfully, a sight gag except for one wonderful explosive moment). There are always winners and losers in an improv-heavy movie like this and I'm assuming that Cole's utter brilliance meant less screentime for folks like David Koechner, Andy Richter and Jane Lynch, which is a pity. I'd also have gladly watched much, much more of Amy Adams, who certainly is one of my very favorite actors of the moment. The most important thing -- after last summer's "Kicking & Screaming" and "Bewitched," the Will Ferrell people used to like is back.

There'll probably be a review on Zap2it for Friday, Aug. 4. Probably. I need more time.


  1. I don't have much interest in this movie because in my mind, Will Farrell + NASCAR = lots and lots of yelling.

    Am I wrong?

  2. It *is* true that for Will Ferrell, the key to improv often is, indeed, lots of wailing, shrieking and talking as if the audience were deaf (something I address in my full review). But it also means random absurdity and occasionally carefully observed satire.

    With a day or two of distance, I don't feel like "Talladega Nights" was a hella funny movie, but it was certainly funny. I'd put "Talladega Nights," "Clerks II" and "Accepted" into a category of movies that made me laugh, if nothing else...

  3. fun little review, especially emphasizing on the impov aspects.

    i think this is an interesting way for comedy films to go...and obviously as you point out sometimes very effective...other times not so much.

    i can't see duncan being a good improv-er at all. i just picture him as john coffey, from the green mile and so that's probably the problem.

    --RC of strangeculture.blogpsot.com