Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
|Featuring:||Will Ferrell, Sacha Baron Cohen, John C. Reilly, Michael Clarke Duncan, Gary Cole|
|Producer:||Judd Apatow, Joshua Church, Andrew J. Cohen, Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Jimmy Miller, Matthew Tolmach|
“The story of a man who could only count to #1”
Will Ferrell is obviously the engine under the hood of the NASCAR fan-spoofing farce, “Talladega Nights”, revving up his comedic skills and going lap after lap with outlandish humor—but it is not a movie you should race out to see. The story is built by one formula Hollywood approach that makes you feel like you are not firing on all cylinders, and makes you wish you had taken the higher road.
Born in the backseat of a racecar, Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) grows up with dreams to someday be a racecar driver like his substance-abusing, absentee father, Reese Bobby (Gary Cole). After Ricky and his buddy Cal (John C. Reilly) go from working in the pit as mechanics to behind the wheel as champion racers, success takes Ricky for a loop when confronted by the homosexual, Perrier-sponsored, French racer, Jean Girard. After an unexpected visit from his father, Ricky has to find a way to reconcile misunderstandings from his childhood with his dream of doing what he loves.
There are some typically offensive things in “Talladega Nights” that you may find in many PG-13 movies, namely, foul language, the Lord’s name being taken in vain and some sexual jokes and references. There are also some odd violent moments, too, which were done humorously, but were nonetheless a bit disturbing. One instance involved someone’s arm being broken, complete with sound effects. This moment, and others like it, seem to push the envelope compared to how movies used to handle these kinds of situations. It feels like another step toward desensitization.
But the scene that could be the most disconcerting is the one where Ricky Bobby is praying. At dinner one night, Ricky says grace before the meal and repeatedly addresses his prayers to “baby Jesus.” This results in a spat with his wife about which Jesus to pray to and an unintelligent philosophical discussion with Cal about what Jesus is like. It is all done very comically, of course, but did seem too irreverent.
The characters are sincere in their faith, however, and it does not seem that the filmmakers are directly trying to spoof Christianity. In fact, most of Ricky’s prayer is filled with thanksgiving, and one of Cal’s remarks reveals that he truly believes in Jesus as the Lord. What it does seem like, though, is that the filmmakers are spoofing a subculture with characters that also happen to be Christian. And since these characters are not shown in a good light, the validity of their faith also seems to suffer in the process.
Most of the time, the way these characters live does not really exemplify Christianity. For example, Ricky prays to various other deities besides Jesus when he crashes his car and thinks he is on fire. But one redemptive subplot, however, is seen with Ricky’s mother, Lucy Bobby (Jane Lynch), and how she disciplines Ricky’s two sons, Texas Ranger (Grayson Russell) and Walker (Houston Tumlin). These two boy’s behavior throughout the story is more than unwieldy, but they (like some of the other characters, too) make a change for the better.
If you like Will Ferrell, you will have a few good laughs throughout this movie. Expect cleaner comedy than “Anchorman” and more story than “Old School,” but going for a ride in this arena may not be worth your time.