Thursday, March 5, 2015

Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby (Classic Write-Up)

Two Days, One Talladega Night
Some movies are intentionally time capsules of certain eras, period pieces obviously falling under such a distinction, but other movies unintentionally serve as a great reminder of what the film industry was like in a certain place and time. Flash back to August 2006 with me, won't you, when Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby was released into theaters to large financial success.

Amy Adams, one of the most talented and well know actresses of today, was relegated in this film to being a meagerly developed supporting love interest, while Sacha Baron Cohen, playing the movies antagonist, was still three months from starring in the movie (Borat) that would launch him to a whole other level of fame. Other aspects of the film (logos of products or it's treatment of homosexuality, which I'll touch on in further detail shortly) are similarly of it's era, but whatever time Talladega Nights was released, it's flaws would still be notable. The same can be said for it's virtues, which are also worthy of mention.

One such virtue is Adam McKay, who directs (he's directed the star of this movie, Will Ferrell, on Anchorman and The Other Guys, both of which I find infinitive superior to this film) and does a really nice job of depicting the stories racing sequences. This ballad of Ricky Bobby (played by Ferrell) deals with the titular character being a cocky racecar driver, and McKay is adept at keeping sequences on the racetrack, which are almost always accompanied by some rock song played by the likes of AC/DC, coherent, which helps sell the emotion and tension that those racing scenes try to convey.

There's not quite as much success in the script, written by McKay and Ferrell, which doesn't quite wring as many gags out of this premise as other features that the star comedian has done. Ricky Bobby just isn't that amusing of an creation, with his southern drawl being the only really distinguishing factor given to him, and his selfish and obliviously arrogant attitude coming across as just an unfunny extension of Ron Burgundy. Ferrell does have a nice dynamic with John C. Reilly, who plays Ricky's best friend, Cal, a lovable doofus responsible for some of the movies most humorous moments.

And now, time to touch on two aspects I mentioned earlier in this review; first up, Amy Adams, who plays a weirdly underdeveloped character named Susan whose sole purposes in the film seem to be to lift Ricky's spirits in a moment of sorrow and be his love interest at the conclusion of the feature. I did like her extended and rage filled monologue to Ricky, but otherwise, she doesn't really leave an impression in the movie, which is only reinforced through how little screentime she receives prior to her cheering Ricky up (though, to her character's credit, she is partially responsible for this movie passing the Bedechel test).

The other aspect of the film I'd like to bring up is it's treatment of homosexuality, which continues a trend in the first decade of the 21st century where comedies tended to use that aspect of someone's personality as the butt of a joke. "Humorous" films had done gags like that in the past, of course, but it seemed particularly prominent in this era, and Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby manages to be a strong example of this by making it's French baddie, Jean Girard, played by Cohen, be gay. Cheap jokes solely done for "shock value" (namely Ricky and the villain kissing in the movies climax) feel dated and uncomfortable, but at least they're not too prominent (which doesn't of course reduce their problematic nature) and the character does have a some funny moments removed from his sexuality, such as his bewilderment of Highlander.

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