Just flip from VH1’s I Love the ‘70s to the Speed Channel, and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy becomes Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Will Ferrell’s eponymous NASCAR champ may always finish first in the world of stock-car racing, but his new character is hardly quicker on the draw than the actor’s sideburned, helmed-haired newsman. Oblivious denseness has been the actor’s flavor of choice since his early SNL days, and each new comedy, like Chuck Jones’s Road Runner episodes, introduces a small modulation of the recipe: Zoolander’s Jacobim Mugatu was an extended catwalk hissyfit, while his Ron Burgundy was a billboard for he-man pomposity, both marinated in Ferrell’s patented big-guy silliness.
Talladega Nights, which Ferrell scripted with director Adam McKay, finds the comic in boneheaded-jock mode, his Ricky Bobby literally a born racer, shooting out of his mother’s belly in the backseat of a Chevelle. Revved up by the win-at-all-costs advice given by his mostly absent father (Gary Cole), Ricky becomes a national hero in Talladega’s racing circuit, fully equipped with blond trophy wife and a fortune from advertising tackiness. After his top position is usurped by Formula One challenger Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen), who conflates the two redneck horrors of being gay and French, Ricky is reduced to delivering pizzas, until, this being both a scattershot comedy and a sports flick, it’s time for a triumphant comeback.
To the film’s credit, the inevitable third-act competition is staged to bring forward the absurd humor that eluded Tom Cruise and Tony Scott in Days of Thunder, and the zaniness is spread generously to a lively supporting cast that includes John C. Reilly, Michael Clarke Duncan, Molly Shannon, Jane Lynch, and David Koechner. (By contrast, Junebug‘s magical Amy Adams is wasted on an inexcusably colorless role.) Rambunctious and synthetic, Talladega Nights boasts its fair share of inspired Ferrell riffs, even if, as a satire of the NASCAR subculture, it mostly runs on fumes.
Excellent color rendition and dynamic range, with rock-solid blacks, few instances of edge haloes, and no evidence of mosquito noise, but like another racing movie this year, Cars, bleeding and the occasional artifact are visible in spots as a result of the frame being jam-packed with so many eye-popping colors. The audio track is appropriately aggressive.
In the improvisational spirit of the film, director Adam McKay and actor Ian Roberts crack wise for the entire span of their commentary track, during which they tell us that the film cost more than $400 million to produce, Sean Penn was paid $3 million to be an extra (and build a gym floor), children "are our future," a span of rain forest was cleared for certain scenes, and cocaine was put into the fuel tanks of the production's race cars. In short: creepy but insanely listenable. Other extras seem to also have the obsessive fan in mind, like the reels that isolate all of Ricky and Cal's commercials and PSAs, a "line-o-rama" feature that collects all the film's best one-liners, and a five-minute-plus montage of Walker and Texas Ranger's scenes. A gag reel is notable for disproving the theory that Sacha Baron Cohen is unable to break character and a series of interviews with Ricky, Cal, and Carley further adds to the in-character insanity that colors the features on the disc.
A nutty collection of features highlight this tight Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Boby DVD.