I’m not really a big fan of Will Ferrell’s, or of car racing, for that matter, so it wasn’t surprising that I passed on Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby during its first run through theaters. I also stayed away when the film first came out on DVD (despite the generally good word-of-mouth buzz I heard), but finally caved in last weekend when it was my husband’s turn to choose our Saturday night movie. What was surprising in all of this was how likable I found Will Ferrell and how decent the movie was on the whole.
Plot summary (with possible spoilers): As the film opens, Ricky Bobby (played by Ferrell) is part of the pit crew for a losing NASCAR team. When the team’s driver decides that he would rather sit down for a sandwich during a pit stop than finish the race, Ricky Bobby seizes the opportunity to get behind the wheel and show everyone what he can do. He goes from dead last all the way up to third place in that race, and is immediately signed to a contract with Dennitt Racing.
Once officially signed, Ricky Bobby starts putting up incredible results, winning race after race and earning millions of dollars. He soon has a gorgeous wife, two kids, a mansion, and all the comforts he could ever dream of. Ricky Bobby was even able to get his best friend Cal Naughton Jr. (John C. Reilly) a ride with the team as well.
This being a sports movie (sort of), there was only one way for Ricky Bobby to go from there. For one thing, his team owner hires Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen), a French Formula One driver, to come in and try to win the title. Jean Girard is actually a good driver, and he gets inside Ricky Bobby’s head a bit too much, which in part causes Ricky Bobby to crash during a subsequent race. This leads to a hospital stay during which Ricky Bobby decides to give up racing because he thinks he’s paralyzed.
From there, the movie shows Ricky Bobby slowly sinking down until he hits rock bottom (which in this case means losing his license, delivering pizzas on bicycles, getting divorced from his wife, having his best friend marry his ex and move into his old mansion, and having to live with his mom. And then we get to see him fight his way back to the circuit and back to the winner’s circle (well, almost). Pretty standard fare here.
My Reaction: This being a comedy, I really didn’t expect much in the way of a true plot — and I didn’t get one either. There are only so many ways a sports movie can play out, so the plot wasn’t the key point in Talladega Nights; the jokes and gags were. So the big question for me was, were the jokes funny? I guess many of them were, but a bunch of them fell flat, too.
I saw this movie just a couple days ago, but I’ve already forgotten most of the gags. The moments that stand out are: when Ricky Bobby stabs himself in the leg because he believes he’s paralyzed; Ricky Bobby taking the bus and using a bicycle to deliver pizzas; learning to drive with a cougar in the car; and the final race where Ricky Bobby and Jean Girard crawl over the finish line.
I also thought the pacing was off in many places, most noticeably in that first dinner table scene where Ricky Bobby took forever to say grace. That bit was far too long, and felt like a Saturday Night Live sketch that overstays its welcome. If that scene had been cut, along with a few others, then maybe the movie could have had a much more reasonable running time instead of the nearly two-hour affair that it turned out to be.
Nevertheless, I still enjoyed watching Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby for the most part. It was fun and entertaining, especially if you go in without too many expectations. I give the film 3 stars out of 5 and recommend that you see it if you haven’t done so yet!