Michael Clarke Duncan
Dale Earnhardt Jr
Let’s face it, Will Ferrell has appeared in some real turkeys. Elf was cringeworthy, Bewitched was lame, and you could count the funny bits in Anchorman.
But in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Ferrell has finally starred in (and written) a genuinely hilarious film. It focuses on the life of the stock car racer Ricky Bobby (Ferrell), from birth to high school to first break to top of the ladder, then the fall from grace before his final comeback.
You don’t need to know a whole lot about NASCAR (although it might be even funnier if you do) to appreciate this movie – it’s a general send-up of the cheesiest of American culture. There’s the line-dancing on the winner’s podium; the lame slogans (‘Shake and Bake, baby!’); and the rampant advertising (at one point, Ricky Bobby actually sells his windscreen: “It’s dangerous and inconvenient, but I sure love Fig Newtons!”).
The funniest bits are probably the improvised ones: when Ricky Bobby gets out of his overturned car yelling to Oprah for help, or when he sticks a knife in his leg and his friends Cal Naughton Jr (John C Reilly) and Lucius Washington (Michael Clarke Duncan) try to prise it out again (‘you gotta cut round the meat’). And Ferrell comes into his own during the various prayers to little baby Jesus (“dear lil’ baby Jesus, in your golden fleece diaper…”).
I could rehash the jokes forever, but that would ruin the surprise. So I’ll simply say this: it may not have the most original plot line, and Sacha Baron Cohen as the French nemesis Jean Girard may have the lamest comedy accent ever, but these are minor peeves. Taken as a whole, Talladega Nights is the funniest (and most quotable) film I’ve seen in ages. I dare you to leave the cinema in a bad mood.