Ferrell Plunders Thunder
For me Will Ferrell is an actor who's best watched in small doses, anything more than a few minutes of his loud comedy at a time and it can become painful. So for me watching a whole Will Ferrell movie is a bit of a slog especially when it comes to "Talladega Nights" a movie which at 116 minutes drags on long past when the jokes were funny. But in many ways "Talladega Nights" is exactly what you expect from a Will Ferrell movie, a lot of jokes, a slim storyline and the man himself at the centre gluing the jokes and set piece gags to the storyline. And as such there are moments when "Talladega Nights" is entertaining and others where it's just plainly painful.
It was destiny that Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell - Anchorman) would become a racer, he was born in a speeding car in the first place, but with the help of his best friend Cal Naughton (John C. Reilly - The Aviator), Ricky becomes the #1 driver in NASCAR with his no fear driving. And with being #1 there are plenty of bonuses including the hot Carley (Leslie Bibb - Iron Man) who becomes his wife and gives him 2 children. But when Frenchman Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) arrives on the NASCAR scene, Ricky's days as #1 are numbered and it doesn't take long before Ricky has lost everything including Carley and he has to decide whether he still has it in him to be #1.
So the storyline to "Talladega Nights" is slim and basically a variation on that in the Tom Cruise vehicle "Days of Thunder". So what we get after a short back story is Ricky Bobby becoming a NASCAR sensation and along with his best buddy Cal winning everything despite their egos and dangerous driving. But a rival driver upsets the balance and following a crash Ricky loses his confidence and pretty much everything else. It's not overly original and really is just a comical variation on "Days of Thunder" but in a way it's sufficient because "Talladega Nights" was never going to be about the storyline but the jokes and Will Ferrell.
Now as is so often the case with modern comedies there is a real feeling that the screen writers came up with as many jokes and funny scenes as they could and then stuck them in the movie. As such for every joke which works you get at least a couple which fail. So whilst the intro which sees the birth of Ricky in his dad's speeding car being stupid but amusing a later scene which sees Ricky being burnt by an imaginary fire is just stupid. It makes it very uneven especially when some of the unfunniest jokes end up being repeated or dragged out longer than necessary. And at just a few minutes short of 2 hours it feels that many of the jokes are superfluous causing "Talladega Nights" to run long past it needed to.
Plus of course there is Will Ferrell in the central role of Ricky Bobby, basically the link between the slim storyline and many of the utterly daft gags. Well whilst not his most annoying performance it is a case that the longer "Talladega Nights" goes on the dafter his character becomes and at the same time more annoying. Those who love Ferrell's anarchic sense of humour will find scenes featuring a crass prayer of Grace, Ferrell in underpants running around and many more funny but for those who don't "Talladega Nights" becomes more and more painful.
Thankfully there are moments when the powerful persona of Ferrell is subdued thanks to good performances from John C. Reilly, Gary Cole, Leslie Bibb, Amy Adams and Jane Lynch but never to the point where he is anything but centre of attention. But the casting of Sacha Baron Cohen as French racer Jean Girard is painfully bad and all I can say is every single scene which he appears in basically grates.
What this all boils down to is that "Talladega Nights" is an amusing movie, with some fun scenes, some good jokes and a slim but adequate storyline. But it is over long, it does have more bad jokes than good and as you should expect features Will Ferrell delivering scene after scene of over the top performance which fans of Ferrell will love but can end up grating.