Whatever skill director Adam ("Anchorman") McKay might possibly have, there's absolutely no sign of it in "Talladega Nights", yet another in the formulaic line of Will Ferrell movies where Ferrell plays a numbskull whose outlandish behavior is eventually overcome by his sincerity. Not exactly the secret recipe for Coke, is it? For McKay's part, he contributes what seems to be an endless array of static shots of single heads. Want to know why? Just watch the end credits, which feature, like virtually every other movie these days, outtakes.
Rather than be a simple source of amusement, the outtakes reveal why the film appears so choppy and why there are so many seemingly disconnected head shots. For instance, in a series of outtakes, John C. Reilly acts out the same scene around a dinner table with slightly different improvised lines. Thus, we get the sense that many moments where there are consecutive lines of dialogue but cuts from one actor to another were actually manufactured in the editing room. For all we know, the two actors could have been in different area codes and it feels just that way, impersonal and cold.
Will Ferrell plays Ricky Bobby, a dim-witted man who happens upon NASCAR and dominates, utilizing a slogan he got from his obnoxious, absentee father (Gary Cole), "If you're not first, you're last." He races on the same team with his best friend, Carl Naughton, Jr. (Reilly), has married the hottest woman he can find (Leslie Bibb), and has named his children Walker and Texas Ranger and taught them to be as obnoxious as he is. To say that Ricky Bobby has a one-track mind is like saying that inviting Mel Gibson to your next bar mitzvah is a bad idea.
After an accident in a showdown with a French gay race car driver named Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen), Ricky loses his fearless attitude and must rediscover both his humanity and his love for racing.
Maybe this film will appeal to NASCAR fans, maybe it won't, but it's as low a blow to their collective intelligence as one could possibly produce, so if the whole thing goes over their heads, it's a truly sad day for cultural self-reflection below the Mason-Dixon line. Ridiculing elves and 70's newsmen is one thing, but when liberal, elite Hollywood dares tread on the icons of an entire cultural region whose voting patterns are often diametrically opposed to their own, a backlash usually follows.
"Talladega Nights" may be wrapped in an innocent package, but the film is full of mean intentions.
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