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.