America, meet your newest folk hero. His name is Ricky Bobby, and unlike his more humble legendary predecessors like Davy Crockett and such, this dim-but-daring NASCAR driver was born to win. He's a brand new kind of champion for the "shock-and-awe" America, living his life by one motto: "If you're not first, you're last."
And whether you're a member of the NASCAR Nation or dead on the other side of the fence with the rest of us urban-intellectual elitists, you'll find Ricky Bobby and Talladega Nights funny and entertaining. It skirts the line between parody and homage so well that you will hardly be able to tell whether Will Ferrell
and his Anchorman collaborator Adam McKay
are poking fun at or celebrating NASCAR culture. Article continues below
The story follows Ricky (Ferrell) from his childhood, in which his deadbeat racecar driver dad (Gary Cole
) instilled in him that lifetime motto, to his redneck adulthood, where – with the help of loyal pal Cal Naughton Jr. (John C. Reilly
) – he climbs the NASCAR ranks to become the best racer in the land. He's got it all: the "smoking hot" wife (Leslie Bibb
), his sons Walker and Texas Ranger, product endorsements galore (lampooned a little uncomfortably with many product placements), and the love of fans everywhere.
But it all comes crashing down when gay French driver Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen
of Ali G fame) comes on the scene, stealing his days of thunder. When Ricky tries to take him on in a big race, they both wreck spectacularly, putting Ricky in the hospital and into a career tailspin. In order to get his groove back, he heads home and rediscovers his original sensei, dad Reese Bobby. And so begins the long road back, which is hilariously strewn with cougars, blindfolds, and Lucky Charms (you'll see).
The biggest question for most fans is, "How funny is Ferrell?" Well, for my money, he's very big on the chuckle quotient, but I wasn't falling out of my chair, as I have with some of his other efforts. It's subjective, of course, but much of the material seems a little tame. Instead, I found that the most ingenious moments came when Ferrell, Reilly, and Cole are just allowed to riff, and they end up with these incredibly wacky, edgier, side-splitting bits. One of my faves involves Reilly's Naughton telling a half-comatose Ricky about his foray into nude male modeling. Priceless.
Overall, the gags throughout are funny but sometimes come a little cheap. While I don't think any of our Southern, NASCAR-loving friends will take offense, some of them do cut a little too close to just pointing out how ridiculous white-trash Americans live. But, whatever… everyone seems to love Larry the Cable Guy, right?
The bottom line here is that this movie is created to be so likeable and probably tested against the broadest mainstream audience possible that it's going to be a monster hit. If you want your wild and crazy Will Ferrell, look for him elsewhere. But if you just want a few laughs from a movie that you know everyone's going to enjoy, Ricky Bobby's definitely your man.