Review: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Much like the writers and cast of Arrested Development (who I have mentioned for a third time on this site because that series undoubtedly represents the gold standard of comedy in this decade), Will Ferrell and Adam McKay recognize that even when it's going after the lofty artistic goals of satire, cinematic comedy is all about function, ie, making the audience laugh. Talladega Nights is jam packed full of gags; so many that you may miss many of them on the first viewing. The dialogue is insanely quotable, perhaps even moreso than that of Ferrell and McKay's previous feature length collaboration, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Simply put, Talladega Nights is a ruthless laugh-producing machine.
Though it's clearly engineered for maximum pleasure, Talladega Nights is not lacking in soul, and though it relentlessly goofs on Nascar and redneck culture, it's not heartless either. The actors obviously do not disrespect their characters, and commit whole-heartedly to their strange passions and odd perspectives. Every principal actor in the film brings their A-game to Talladega Nights, most especially the understated Amy Adams, the increasingly Peter Sellers-ish Sasha Baron Cohen, and John C. Reilly, whose comedic chops are so impressive in this film that he ought to never waste his talent on a drama ever again.
Ferrell himself is at the height of his powers in this film, as he riffs on a variation of his George W. Bush impression from Saturday Night Live. As the extremely myopic race car driver Ricky Bobby, he keeps the idiot-cowboy subtext of his Bush characterization intact, while also freeing himself from the limitations of that context, or at least enough to indulge in scenes where he can stab himself in the leg, get mauled by a cougar named Karen, or get in a heated argument about his preference for baby Jesus to all of Christ's other incarnations.
Seriously, just go see it. There's not much more I can say about this film without resorting to fanboy gushing, or filling entire paragraphs with exclamation points.