Monday, August 07, 2006

Talladega Nights - Reviewed by the Five Paragraph Bitter Film Critic

There are two types of people in this world - those who like Jack Black a lot, and those who hate Jack Black a lot. Same thing goes for Will Ferrell - many love him, and others can't stand him. If there was a Venn diagram of the two stars' fans, I'm sure there would be many overlapping fans on both sides of the love/hate coin. I was firmly in the hater's camp of Will Ferrell back in the mid-90s. I thought his work on Saturday Night Live was pretty...well, not funny. Sure, the Cheerleader bit was OK once in a while, but they went to that well *WAY* too often. My opinion began to change when Jim Carrey hosted the show - you know, the episode where even the last skit didn't suck - Carrey was a meth-addicted weight loss specialist, and Ferrell was using Carrey's program to lose weight. Not only did he lose weight, but he felt possessed by the Devil, and proceeded to throw a shout-out to the classic movie Scanners.

I will humbly submit that there are two Will Ferrells. The lousy SNL Will Ferrell who came up big once or twice a season, and the movie Will Ferrell. ((side note - Talk all you want about more cowbell, but that scene was CLEARLY Christopher Walken's)). The Movie Will Ferrell has a knack of playing lovable goofballs who aren't quite as bright as the world around them, and will do pretty much anything for a laugh. His characters have a certain warmth, and even a realism - as though a six-foot tall elf really *could* walk through New York.

This movie is definitely the Movie Will Ferrell in grand form. His character, Ricky Bobby, comes from a broken home to NASCAR superstardom. His best friend on-and-off track is Cal Naughton, played brilliantly by John C. Reilly, and together, they form NASCAR's most feared 1 - 2 punch. His "smokin' hot wife" Carley (Leslie Bibb, reappearing from obscurity) and sons Walker (Houston Tumlin) and Texas Ranger (Grayson Russell) nearly complete Ricky's comfortable, sponsor-aided life. Until Sacha Baron Cohen shows up as conniving French driver Jean Gerard, bringing jazz, homosexuality and Andy Richter into Ricky Bobby's country-fried world.

As with Anchorman, the laughs are spread out through the cast - it's not just the Will Ferrell show. Reilly shines in the buddy role he perfected in Boogie Nights. Green Mile star Michael Clarke Duncan plays Ricky's crew chief Luscious, leading Anchorman vet David Koechner (inventor of the Whammy!) and Upright Citizens Brigade alum Ian Roberts. Ricky Bobby's children both have shocking, hilarious lines that just about broke the audience up in coughing fits - until grandma Lucy (Best in Show's Jane Lynch) knocks some manners into them - and they're still funny after that. And Leslie Bibb is smokin' hot. Still, as Steve Carell's Brick Tamland ended up being the funniest character in Anchorman, Gary Cole's turn as Reese Bobby, Ricky's deadbeat dad, and Sacha Cohen's Jean Girard do the same here. Bill Lumburgh absolutely kills as Ricky's hard-livin', hard drinkin' speed freak pappy, and the former Ali G gives Girard a bit of dignity - well, at least as much dignity as can be summoned when playing a gay French NASCAR driver married to Andy Richter.

There is a rather large logistical jump in the movie where Carl betrays Ricky out of nowhere, and it left the audience scratching it's collective head. At that point, the movie loses some momentum, and it takes a while to get back up to speed. It's not quite as bad as Wedding Crashers' second-half collapse, but, it's tangible. I wonder if the Director's Cut DVD release (oh, come on, you know it's coming) addresses this flaw. Still, the movie is an honest-to-God hoot, a knee-slapper, and several other Southern terms meaning funnier-than-hell. I dare say, this might even be a hootenanny.

17 out of a possible 20 Whammies! 11 Whammies! were awarded to the above-mentioned cast - one Whammy! each. Another Whammy! is given to Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is pretty natural in front of a camera. A special Whammy! is given to Amy Adams, who could challenge Isla Fisher from Wedding Crashers for "hot redhead supremacy." Four more Whammies! were given to the hilarious out takes at the end of the film. Non-Whammies! were given to Molly Shannon, who is spectacularly unfunny in a completely unneeded subplot, and the criminal underutilization of David Koetchner and Ian Roberts.

No comments: