The first of the Will Ferrell sports movies is easily the best. Talladega Nights is a hilarious riff on NASCAR, and this one ranks as the top Ferrell comedy to date. The combination of Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, and underrated Michael Clarke Duncan makes this sports comedy stand out.
Filled with priceless ad-libbed lines, the amount of quotable material here is immense. Ferrell plays the dim-witted NASCAR driver with the will to be number one, simply because his drunken, drug addicted father told him it was the only choice as a child. While the Ferrell character has become redundant after multiple outings in similar style, Talladega Nights still holds up.
Cohen is the enemy here, playing a French F1 driver with a ridiculously thick accent. His stubborn, snobby ways are clichéd and probably offensive to some, but it’s played for straight laughs to great effect. The rivalry on the track is hilarious, including a finale that could only happen in a comedy like this.
While sticking to the sports movie formula in terms of its general story, Nights manages to avoid many of the usual plot pitfalls that have become tiresome over the years. There are no extended training montages to get the audience up to speed, and the film skips from Ferrell’s character as a child, right into his winning streak. While there is some “training” per se late in the film as he makes a comeback, it never feels like the tired, overused montages of other sports movies. The cougar sequence is hysterical.
Though it could be used as a cheap gag, Ferrell’s two on-screen kids are scene stealers. Letting them go on various tirades is ridiculously funny, and manages to build the sheer stupidity of Ferrell’s character. That, and naming them Walker and Texas Ranger was brilliant.
Nights does run a little long by the end, though it doesn’t waste a scene. Only a few minor gags fall flat, and there is no downtime. The racing footage isn’t overused either as to not bore those who aren’t fans of the sport and keep everyone engaged in the humor. This is a fine effort from director Adam McKay, who handled the only slightly less funny Anchorman two years prior.
As one of the earliest Blu-ray efforts and the initial pack-in with the PlayStation 3, Talladega Nights had a lot to live up to. It was poor choice by Sony. While this transfer does occasionally waver into great territory in a few brief shots, it’s otherwise a mess.
The problem is the overdone contrast. The whites are hot, bleaching out details and colors around them. Reds bloom, and flesh tones can end up orange. Grain can be a small problem, and the transfer has some serious issues with smoke. Black levels are typically strong, while some close ups (especially late in the movie) do deliver in terms of facial detail and sharpness. Still, it’s impossible to miss the exaggerated whites that seem to cover everything.
Featuring an uncompressed PCM mix, Talladega Nights is easily overlooked for its audio. The racing footage consistently provides an active sound field, with cars zipping by through all speakers. Bass is provided by the soundtrack and the epic, overdone crashes. You’ll feel every bounce of the cars. Non-race scenes offer some specific immersive sound, such as downtime scenes on the track with cars and helicopters circling around.
Nine deleted scenes kick off the special features, all in HD (as with everything else on the disc). A gag reel running slightly over two minutes follows that up. Will Ferrell Returns to Talladega is a collection of footage shot during a promotional run at the track. Ricky and Cal’s Commercials and a separate collection of PSAs are filled with hilarious improv work from the two stars. Line-o-rama continues the disc's improv work for over five minutes.
Bonus Race Footage is dry for its one minute running time featuring random, unused footage. Walker and Texas Ranger Ad Libs has the two child actors having a blast spouting off hilariously crude lines that didn’t make the final cut. An interview section contains almost 14 minutes of in-character interviews about the “careers” of the drivers. A commentary from the director and actor Ian Roberts finishes off the disc.
Many of the advertisers who adorned the cars used in the film weren’t charged. Old Spice, Wonder Bread, and Perrier all gained free publicity from their appearance. Wonder Bread and Old Spice did do some promotional work for the movie however.