I can’t help it. NASCAR was at Talladega, a car even caught fire, and help me, Oprah Winfrey, I need to rewatch Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. It’s one of the few motorsport-related movies that just never gets old.
Confession time: I don’t usually like Will Ferrell as an actor. He was okay on Saturday Night Live, but after a while, you realize that Will Ferrell is Will Ferrell in everything he plays. A character must be one that works for Will Ferrell, otherwise you’re just left with excessive, distracting Will Ferrell-ness in a sad vehicle for easily quotable lines. (You’re my boy, Blue!)
Ricky Bobby is the character where Will Ferrell as Will Ferrell works. Ferrell’s loud, oafish self is perfect for the outlandish NASCAR standout and makes him the perfect foil for the dastardly Frenchman Jean Girard.
Maybe I’m a little biased because I first saw Talladega Nights on the side of an RV at a LeMons race while hanging out in a hot tub—an actual hot tub of unknown provenance, used like a kiddie pool for redneck grownups—in the back of a giant military truck that doubled as the race’s pace car for the weekend. That was pretty great. This movie was just as good, though.
Nothing so accurately lampoons both NASCAR and them fancy-pants foreign races quite as well as this film. Anyone who’s ever had to explain that NASCAR isn’t just for bumpkins and dimwits or that Formula One isn’t the sole provenance of snobs and Europeans knows exactly what I’m talking about. At some point, it’s cathartic to take a step back from all the madness and laugh at it.
They held nothing back when lampooning modern motorsports in this movie. Everything from sponsorship deals to macho-man antics to even the cultural uncomfortableness with a man kissing another man gets the Ricky Bobby treatment.
If you wrote Talladega Nights off as yet another Will Ferrell source of bro-quotes, well, you’re partially right. I wanna go fast. It’s so much more than that, though. It’s dead-on satire that shoots far above its zany appearance and just as relevant now (err, s/Nextel/Sprint) than ever. Go watch it.
Or rather, go watch it again.
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