Joy ride

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Starring Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen and Gary Cole. Directed by Adam McKay. Rated PG-13.
Rated 5.0

It was only a matter of time before America’s favorite redneck sport made it to the big screen. Thank you, Will Ferrell, for doing it right.

Ferrell plays Ricky Bobby, a born racecar driver, who pops out of the womb in the back seat of his daddy’s old Chevelle and feels the need for speed even before his little legs can reach the pedals. His motto, a little something he picks up from his pops: “If you’re not first, you’re last.”

There are some words of wisdom for ya.

So he and his best friend, Cal Naughton Jr. (John C. Reilly), join the crew for the Laughing Clown Malt Liquor car and during an important race, the driver takes an extra-long pit stop. Here is Ricky Bobby’s moment to shine—he takes the wheel and finishes the race, which slingshots him to instant celebrity.

The man with two first names jumps to the front of the pack, rises in the sponsorship ranks and even gets his buddy Cal in on the deal. He marries a perky blonde, has two obnoxious, foul-mouthed brats, Walker and Texas Ranger, and is pretty much the man—he even signs an autograph for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Just when the ride seems smooth, though, Ricky Bobby hits a speed bump when Formula 1 French snob Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) shows up to steal his spotlight.

A series of should-have-been-fatal crashes, ridiculous driving/life lessons from deadbeat dad and a best friend who’s tired of coming in second present Ricky Bobby with more than a few obstacles.

In typical Ferrell fashion, Ricky Bobby is serious and overdramatic. And as always, it works—because Ferrell is so good at making it seem like he’s not trying to be funny. The movie falters only when it tries too hard to get laughs, specifically in the scenes involving RB’s pit crew, which are over the top and border on cheesy.

Reilly kicks cowboy butt as Ricky Bobby’s “shake-n-bake” best friend/sidekick. And the British Cohen, though a bit annoying with his faux French accent, plays a believable gay nemesis.

Talladega Nights is somewhat predictable— it even includes the obligatory awkward scene of Ferrell in his tighty-whities. But who cares? It’s funny.