Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Studio: Sony Pictures Releasing
Rated: PG-13
Cast: Will Ferrell, David Koechner, Sacha Baron Cohen, John C. Reilly, Michael Clarke Duncan
Director: Adam McKay
WorkNameSort: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Our Rating: 3.50
A Bush-era film if there ever was one, it's hard to imagine Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby receiving the green light a decade ago. Or if it did, it certainly wouldn't be the same movie. Its villain, for example, is Bill O'Reilly's worst nightmare: Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen, absolutely hysterical), a gay Frenchman with an affinity for jazz, existentialism and classic literature. He's also a stock-car driver, so his presence is infringing on that most sacred of blue-blooded, middle-American sports, personified by Will Ferrell's titular NASCAR superstar. Ricky Bobby's xenophobia and isolationist logic are frighteningly like W.'s, but both he and Girard are cartoons. The film takes an equal amount of inspired comic jabs at both sides of the cultural divide, as well as NASCAR tropes like the ravenous fan base and the ubiquity of corporate advertising. Gary Cole and John C. Reilly add hilarious gusto as Ricky's white-trash father and second-fiddle companion, respectively, who provide countless moments of unexpectedly fresh wit thanks to the improv-conducive environment established by director Adam McKay (Anchorman) and co-producer Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin). NASCAR has long been ripe for parody, and even if Talladega Nights occasionally undercuts its satiric comments by genuinely celebrating the race sequences, this cultural phenomenon receives a scathingly funny treatment. (PG-13)