Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Not a bad picture but not a great one, Nights generally looked good but it fell short of expectations for a recent flick.
For the most part, sharpness seemed fine, but variations occurred. Some wide shots came across as a bit ill defined. Usually the image remained accurate, but it simply seemed a little off on occasion. Jagged edges and shimmering caused no concerns, but I noticed some light edge enhancement. At least no source flaws cropped up in this clean transfer.
What with the NASCAR vehicles and other varied settings, Nights enjoyed a lot of opportunities for bright colors, and these mostly appeared good. However, at times I thought the tones looked a little pale. Those occurrences occurred often enough to create some minor distractions. Black levels worked fine and seemed deep, while shadow detail also was clear and appropriately dark. The movie always seemed watchable, but it lacked spark and ended up as a “B-“.
While better than usual for a comedy, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Talladega Nights seemed more subdued than anticipated for a flick with so much racing. The mix definitely focused on the front channels. Music featured prominently in the film, and the track presented the score and songs with nice, clean stereo. Effects popped up in appropriate and distinct locations and melded together naturally.
Surround usage tended toward general ambience, but a few segments gave us greater activity from the rear. The races occasionally brought out some good movement, but these were less involving than I’d like. Though we got decent car audio from the surrounds, I thought the mix could’ve been more active in that way.
Audio quality appeared fine. Speech came across as natural and concise, and the lines betrayed no flaws like edginess. Effects sounded crisp and detailed. They showed no distortion or other concerns and demonstrated reasonable low-end response when necessary. Music worked best of all. The various bits of songs and score were robust and dynamic, and bass seemed tight and dense. Overall this was an unambitious but satisfactory mix.
As we move to the extras, we start with an audio commentary. Entitled “25 Years Later”, this takes us to 2031 and purports to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Nights. At the start, it features actor Will Ferrell and “director’s son Darnell McKay”. We quickly learn that director Adam McKay couldn’t appear because he died years earlier when attacked by hammerhead sharks.
Those two don’t sit alone. As the track progresses, additional participants enter the picture. We get “Michigan militia captain” John C. Reilly on the phone, and others come into the studio. Those folks include actors Jack McBrayer, “Senator” David Koechner, and Michael Clarke Duncan.
Yes, this will be a commentary with tongue planted firmly in cheek, and I must admit, I didn’t relish the prospect of listening to it. I thought it’d quickly become lame and lack much entertainment value.
Happily, I was wrong, as “25 Years Later” proves consistently funny and enjoyable. Of course, you don’t learn a damned thing about the film’s creation, and the fact that every new participant needs to be informed about the fake lives of the others creates a lot of repetition. Nonetheless, the gags fly fast and furious, and most of them hit home. Surprisingly, the track gets better as it progresses. I thought it’d run out of steam, but each speaker adds his own twist and contributes to the comedy. This is an awfully fun little piece that fans of the movie should love.
Seven Deleted and Extended Scenes fill a total of 19 minutes, 53 seconds. We find “Going for the Win” (0:41), “I’m Hot” (2:45), “Little Sticker on Windshield” (2:01), “Ricky in Hospital” (5:46), “Gas Money” (0:48), “Jenga Scene (Extended)” (7:15), and “Return to the Garage” (0:37). Most of these are actually pretty good. “Hot” and “Sticker” give us a better look at Carley’s callousness, while “Hospital” provides funny riffs from Cal. “Jenga” also has some great bits from Cal. I don’t think any of these would’ve fit into the final film very well, but they’re fun to watch here.
A Gag Reel runs two minutes, 28 seconds. Though we get a lot of the usual goofs and giggles, plenty of funny improv appears as well, so this clip works better than usual. Line-o-Rama goes for five minutes, 30 seconds. It includes more unused gags. This reel shows lots of short cut snippets, many of which are very amusing.
Two sections appear under the banner of Interviews. We get “Ricky and Cal” (5:32), and “Cal and Carley” (4:19). Essentially these consist of more improv material as we watch the actors riff with each other. Many funny bits emerge, especially since we see more from Cal; I'd be interested in a Cal spin-off flick.
Will Ferrell Returns to Talladega lasts five minutes, 26 seconds. This shows the actor as he goes to the track to act as grand marshal, chat with the press and interact with fans. We also get some comments from various NASCAR drivers. It’s a watchable piece but not particularly memorable.
Next comes 78 seconds of Bonus Race Footage. As implied, this simply shows more shots of cars. Advertising appears on a NASCAR Page. Here we see clips for a few NASCAR-related elements.
In addition to the movie’s trailer, we find a collection of Previews. This area presents ads for The Pursuit of Happyness, Click, Ghost Rider, Spider-Man 3, The Da Vinci Code, Stomp the Yard, Little Man, The Benchwarmers, Seinfeld Season Seven and upcoming Blu-Ray titles.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby has many good moments, but it doesn’t soar consistently. An unlikable lead character and too many weak gags keep it from living up to its potential. The DVD offers decent picture and audio along with some entertaining extras. The movie at least deserves a rental.