Well, if you liked Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, you’ll probably love Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. I keep having great hopes for Will Ferrell. He entices me in a way most of the frat pack does not, drawing me in despite his track record with me (Elf and Bewitched, he was funny. Everything else, ehh not so much). Maybe it’s his appearances on the Daily Show. Maybe it’s his unerring ability to surround himself with a cast of people I really want to see.
I saw the previews to Talladega Nights and, despite my disinterest in NASCAR and my distrust of Ferrell, I actually wanted to see this movie (unlike my brethren). Afterward, I apologized to my companion, who isn’t often inclined to go out to movies, for leeching away a little more of his goodwill. John C. Reilly, Gary Cole, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jane Lynch, Michael Clarke Duncan, Greg Germann? Come on, folks, that’s a recipe for some good funny. Right? Ehh, not so much.
Ferrell’s stock in trade is the willfully ignorant boor who (like in Anchorman) is a character who, for some reason, is the best at whatever he does, then falls from grace, and has to claw his way back up on top. The problem with both films is that the boor in question has no likable traits to begin with, so why should we root for him?
Writer/director of both movies Adam McKay seems to think that we’ll root for him just because he’s Will Farrell, but I am sorry, I am immune to that particular magic. McKay’s lengthy stint at SNL makes me suspect it is his writing that made me stop watching that show as well. The pacing as well is clunky and full of dead space like in Anchorman. This movie is also guilty of wasting the considerable charm of the supporting cast, instead reducing them to helpless participants in the ego fest of Ricky Bobby.
Ferrell’s similar-but-better characters such as Buddy the Elf, Frank the Tank, Jack in Bewitched, and even Franz Liepkind in the Producers, are lovable boors who have no idea they are such boors. They are unburdened with undue ego and wander haplessly into hilarious disasters due to their lack of attention. McKay’s dangerous touch is making them self-esteem rich arrogant wankers. So I still hold hopes that I will love Ferrell’s performances as much as I seem to love him as a public person. He seems smart and savvy enough to be funny, but he chooses vehicles like this that make me want to avoid future trials.
If you have a desire to see this, just know that all the best bits (except for Cole and Jynch) are in the preview, so save your money and satisfy your curiosity when it comes on cable.