Friday, August 04, 2006

Talladega Nights

Directed by Adam McKay
Written by Will Ferrell and McKay

How much do you have to laugh in a movie before you consider it funny? With Anchorman, Will Ferrell's last collaboration with Adam McKay, I laughed several times, thought certain scenes were even brilliant, but came away wanting more. Talladega Nights is not even as good as Anchorman, so even though I can report that I laughed a few times, I can't tell you that the experience was great.

Ricky Bobby (Ferrell) is a champion NASCAR driver, has turned into a bit of a monster over the years with his lack of team racing, his inability to share the spotlight, even with friend Cal Naughton, Jr (John C. Reilly). He lives with his hot, smokin' wife Carley (Leslie Bibb) and his two sons, Walker (Houston Tumlin) and Texas Ranger (Grayson Russell). Sponsor Larry Dennit, Jr. (Greg Germann) has gotten fed up with the individualistic Bobby and has hired a French, gay, Formula One racer Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) to help the team's performance. After a race in which Bobby's old tricks fail him, and he crashes, developing psychosomatic symptoms that prevent him from racing, Bobby tries to find his way back into what he loves by learning what's important through his mom (Jane Lynch) and admirer (Amy Adams). Bad advice comes courtesy of bastard father Reese (Gary Cole).

Everything that is funny and memorable about Anchorman are the over-the-top scenes, like the rival news station gang fight or Jack Black dropkicking Ron Burgundy's dog off an overpass. This is no exception, but nothing near those scenes show up in this movie. And while what I have just described in the plot summary itself may give you some giggles, know that a lot of it is stretched thin. I found myself wishing the "plot" could have been a bit simpler--just Bobby and Gerard's rivalry would have sufficed, with more Sacha Baron Cohen, who is funny in nearly every scene. As is, there are a great many comic actors all around and McKay needs to get to all of them. Essentially, it burns a lot of steam doing it.

The movie makes fun of the extreme red-state mentality, poking fun at religion, politics, and homophobia--it's another area where the movie actually shines but can't seem to keep up the momentum. Within this movie, there's a funnier experience waiting to be had with better writing, direction, editing (some of the funniest scenes in the trailer are either played differently in the movie or are completely cut). It's kind of a mess. The laugh count is more than your average You, Me, & Dupree, but less than 40-Year-Old Virgin.


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