Movie Review

'Talladega': Fast, loose and stupid

Staff WriterAugust 4, 2006 

  • 2 1/2 stars

    Cast: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Michael Clarke Duncan, Amy Adams.

    Director: Adam McKay.

    Length: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

    Web site:

    Theaters: Apex: Beaver Creek. Cary: Crossroads. Chapel Hill: Timberlyne. Varsity. Durham: Southpoint. Wynnsong. Garner: Towne Square. White Oak. Morrisville: Park Place. Raleigh: Brier Creek. Carmike. Grande. Mission Valley. North Hills. Six Forks. Wakefield. Roxboro: Palace. Smithfield: Smithfield.

    Rating: PG-13 (crude and sexual humor, language, drug references and brief comic violence).

There's one word that perfectly describes "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," but I can't use it in print for risk of offending the mentally challenged.

But you know what? Let's go with that. "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" is mentally challenged. In fact, it may be the most mentally challenged film you'll see this summer.

Audiences may also argue that it's the most mentally challenged thing Will Ferrell has ever done. (Although I still believe agreeing to star in "Bewitched" closes out that argument.) He's the titular lead, an arrogant, speed-loving, overachieving NASCAR driver whose winning streak gets threatened when a very French -- and very gay -- racer (Sacha Baron Cohen, aka trouble-stirring prankster Ali G) comes to the States and vows to take Bobby's crown.

He does take it after Bobby wipes out during a race, leaving him traumatized and humiliated. So you know what that means. He has to start fresh, get back on the horse, feel the need for speed again -- and a bunch of other cliches I'm too tired to think of right now.

Man, "Talladega" is a special kind of stupid. I'm almost at a loss for words at how amazingly moronic this movie is. But then again, should I have expected anything else from Ferrell? Although "Nights" is supposed to be another story of a cocky champ who bottoms out and redeems himself by humbly starting from scratch, it's really a chance for Ferrell to act like a dang fool on film.

Collaborating again with "Anchorman" director/co-writer Adam McKay, Ferrell serves as the ringmaster of this largely improvised, incessantly dim-bulb celluloid circus. But unlike that anarchic, oft-quoted fan favorite (I was at a club a few days ago where of people were shooting off their favorite "Anchorman" lines verbatim), "Talladega" barely binds together as a movie. The wafer-thin story is practically an excuse for Ferrell and the cast -- which includes Oscar nominees John C. Reilly (as Bobby's dim-witted racing partner), Michael Clarke Duncan (as his crew chief) and Amy Adams (as his mousy, torch-carrying assistant) -- to one-up each other in the ad-libbing department. The thing is, their excessive, extemporaneous riffing practically makes up the whole movie. The cast's urge to say the dumbest thing that comes into their heads trumps any logic or common sense they're supposed to convey on-screen. Nearly everyone acts like such an insane imbecile, you may wonder how they manage to get through the day without harming themselves and others.

Of course, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't laughing through chunks of it. From Ferrell stripping down to his tighty-whities and continually running around a race track, thinking he's on fire, to Reilly explicitly coming clean about appearing in a Playgirl layout, to a climactic showdown between Ferrell and Cohen (set to Pat Benatar's "We Belong," of all songs), "Talladega" certainly doesn't skimp on the nuttiness.

"Talladega Nights" is prime, quintessentially dumb. And unlike most of the other dumb comedies I've seen this summer, it didn't make me feel disgusted afterward.

Staff writer Craig D. Lindsey can be reached at 829-4760, or

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