Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (12A)


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Time Out says

Tue Sep 12 2006

Other than his magnificently evil now-that-would-have-been-a-film cameo in the feeble ‘Wedding Crashers’, Will Ferrell had a poor 2005. But, praise be, you can’t keep a big clown down for long, and here, reunited with the team behind the mighty ‘Anchorman’, he delivers a dose of smart-stupid cartoon character comedy at its most glorious.

Ferrell plays the titular redneck racing driver whose Southern-fried rise, fall and redemption provides a baggy backbone for improvised laffs both elementary and inspired. To accommodate Ferrell’s fondness for taking humour off-track, the central narrative has to remain fairly A-B, but director McKay still tries to cram in lots of secondary plots (an errant father, an under-appreciated secretary, some impertinent children), much of which you have to take on trust. Prudent editing might have made a more coherent whole (wasn’t DVD invented for Will Ferrell out-takes?), but McKay likes to give his actors a free hand – no bad thing in a comedy. That decision is vindicated by superb support from an outrageously-accented Sacha Baron Cohen as gay French Formula One jazz nutjob Jean Girard, and John C Reilly as wingman Cal Naughton Jr, with whom Bobby shares a cliché-soaked Southern upbringing, inane catchphrase and, later and less willingly, wife and home.

For all his multiplex appeal, Ferrell is teetering on the brink of arthouse acceptance (see the upcoming Gondry-esque ‘Stranger Than Fiction’), but the sort of comedic wing-clipping that would involve would be questionable progress for the current king of mainstream comedy – broad but not crude, dumb but not witless, clever but still snot-spittingly funny. Stupidly brilliant, in other words.

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