At one glance, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (what a mouthful) is surely the live-action version of this summer's Cars, with its setting in NASCAR racing, the drive (pardon the pun) to be number one on the race track, and its storyline in finding out what truly matters in life besides the race (oops, another pun) to the top.
Will Ferrell plays the title character Ricky Bobby, born in the backseat of his speed demon father's racer. A stroke of luck sees him transformed from pit stop crew to the #1 driver in NASCAR, living life from a philosophy imparted from his dad, that if you ain't first, you're last. Fame and wealth come rolling in, until one day a French F1 driver, Jean Girrard (Sacha Baron Cohen) arrives on the race circuit scene and threatens to take over the top dog spot.
The movie is split into equal portions between Ricky Bobby's meteoric rise to fame, which allowed for plenty of laughs, while the latter half is filled with relatively slower moments in regaining confidence after a Days of Thunder-ish event. One scene which truly cracked me up is the one in the hospital - it came out from out of the blue, and tickled me so hard that tears just rolled uncontrollably. The other scene which was as interesting, was one over the dinner table, although it did feel a little stretched out and could be shortened for pacing's sake. But despite the number of sight gags, and witty lines, the jokes here felt a little unevenly spread, which also meant that some of them did fall flat or get repetitive.
What lifted the movie is the support from the secondary casts, with John C Reilly playing Ricky Bobby's wingman and best friend Cal, Michael Clarke Duncan as the race / pit stop manager, and the kids who played Ricky's sons, who surprisingly got the best of the crude one liners, and actually had some form of character development. Sacha Baron Cohen, of Ali G and Borat fame, hams it up with his fake thick French accent and mannerisms - a pity that he doesn't get more screen time as the prime villain.
There are some cuts in the movie given that its PG rating here - censored out were the gay bits, and gay kissing, which jarred the movie though it wasn't missed. What surprised me when watching this movie right after You, Me and Dupree, was the similarities in themes, characters and scenes. We have the same issues with the best friend, a main character who doesn't appreciate nor is contended with what he has, taking things for granted, the father character playing a significant role, as well as "Career Day".
Stay tuned right up until after the end credits roll for a small scene, which also had similarities to You, Me and Dupree's, in having a book feature in the scene.