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Adam McKay
Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Michael Clarke Duncan, Gary Cole, Adam McKay, David Koechner, Ian Roberts, Jack McBrayer, Leslie Bibb, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Writing Credits:
Will Ferrell, Adam McKay

The story of a man who could only count to #1.

NASCAR stock car racing sensation Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) is a national hero because of his "win at all costs" approach. He and his loyal racing partner, childhood friend Cal Naughton Jr. (John C. Reilly), are a fearless duo - "Shake" and "Bake" by their fans for their ability to finish so many races in the #1 and #2 positions, with Cal always in second place. When flamboyant French Formula One driver Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) challenges "Shake" and "Bake" for the supremacy of NASCAR, Ricky Bobby must face his own demons and fight Girard for the right to be known as racing's top driver.

Box Office:
$72.5 million.
Opening Weekend
$47.042 million on 3803 screens.
Domestic Gross
$148.213 million.

Rated NR

Widescreen 2.40:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 121 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 12/12/2006

• Audio Commentary with Director Adam McKay
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Gag Reel
• “Line-o-Rama”
• Interviews
• “Walker & Texas Ranger” Featurette
• Ricky and Cal’s Commercials and Public Service Announcements
• “Will Ferrell Returns to Talladega” Featurette
• Bonus Race Footage
• Trailer
• Previews


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby (Unrated) (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 7, 2006)

Will Ferrell reasserted his box office presence with 2006’s wacky hit comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. In this flick, Ferrell plays the title character, a southern boy who grew up with a need for speed – and a desire to please his absentee father Reese (Gary Cole).

Ricky ends up as a pit crewmember for the NASCAR Laughing Clown Malt Liquor team. When the team’s last-place driver bails in the middle of a race, Ricky volunteers to take his place, and he does surprisingly well. Inspired by his dad’s motto of “If you’re not first, you’re last”, Ricky quickly becomes one of NASCAR’s top drivers, and his success allows his sponsors to expand their team. Ricky’s lifelong pal Cal Naughton Jr. (John C. Reilly) gets behind the wheel of his own car, and he acts as his buddy’s wingman.

Along with his blonde bimbo wife Carley (Leslie Bibb) and bratty sons Walker (Houston Tumlin) and Texas Ranger (Grayson Russell), Ricky lives the high life. Alas, the good times don’t last, as Ricky’s existence starts to unwind after Formula One racer Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) enters the NASCAR world to challenge Ricky. Not only does Girard break Ricky’s arm in a bar brawl, but also he takes over as the best NASCAR driver when a wreck leaves Ricky sidelined. The rest of the movie follows Ricky’s attempts at rehabilitation and other issues in his life.

Perhaps someday Ferrell will make a comedy that isn’t hit or miss, but Nights isn’t that flick. Relentlessly up and down, this one throws out at least as many duds as successes. The “at least” part relates to the ways different folks will see it, as obviously some people will find the material more amusing than others.

However, I find it hard to imagine anyone won’t view the flick as tremendously erratic. While this isn’t the kind of “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach found in efforts like Airplane!, the film fails to display many attempts to fine-tune its comedy. I get the impression that the filmmakers pitched in every gag they imagined and decided to let the viewers sort out what they liked.

I suppose that’s a democratic way to make a flick, but it’s not efficient or consistently satisfying. The movie meanders at times, and it can come across as rather self-indulgent. Ferrell and his supporting cast have more than the requisite talent to make the flick watchable, but the lack of discretion used by the filmmakers turns it into an erratic seesaw of a film.

Much of the time, it appears that the filmmakers just don’t know when to quit. For instance, look at the scene in which Ricky thinks he’s on fire. This bit starts funny but keeps going way too long. Whatever humor it boasts gets extinguished by its extensive length.

Another problem relates to the title character. Ferrell miscalculates as he makes Ricky Bobby awfully unlikable after he becomes a star. I understand the rationale behind this, as the filmmakers clearly want us to view Ricky Bobby’s evolution and growth, but it doesn’t succeed. He comes across as so arrogant and self-absorbed that we intensely dislike him right off the bat, and it becomes very difficult for the movie to overcome that initial misstep.

The flick does boast a terrific cast, and they truly add to the production. Cole stands out as amusingly crass, while Cohen’s gay driver is surprisingly droll despite the many obvious jokes he gives us. Reilly is so naturally likable that we bond with him early; indeed, he becomes our most natural ally since we dislike Ricky Bobby so much, even when Cal’s behavior means he should transformthe bad guy.

Talladega Nights just remains so darned erratic that it falls short of its goals. We find more than a few good laughs, but these come with just as many clunkers and groaners. I do think we find plenty of good material, and I’ll admit that the movie works better on second viewing. Nonetheless, better editing and tightening would have made this more consistently satisfying.

Footnote: stick through the finish of the end credits for a little coda with grandma and the kids. Don’t expect it to be terribly funny, though.

Note that this DVD for Talladega Nights presents the “unrated and uncut” version of the flick. This adds 13 minutes to the movie’s theatrical running time. Since 108 minutes seemed long already, the extended cut should really drag, shouldn’t it? Actually, this doesn’t occur. I don’t think the extra material truly improves the flick, but the added bits don’t harm it, as they offer some really funny stuff at times.

WARNING: if you want to avoid various potential spoilers, skip the next section! It’ll feature details on the changes and might tell you something you don’t want to know.

What added bits pop up here? Most of them present extensions of existing scenes. These include the dinner that introduces Ricky’s wife and family, The Pit Stop when he meets Jean, the scene where Carley dumps him, the hospital, Ricky’s “haunted house” phone call with Cal, and the climactic race.

There area few entirely new segments. We see one in which Ricky takes the bus to deliver pizzas, and there’s a reconciliatory phone call from Cal prior to the “haunted house” one. Before the big race at the end, we check out Ricky’s car and sponsors, a section left out of the theatrical version. During the final race, the movie cuts to a commentator who interviews “celebrities”, and we watch Carley try to get back with Ricky at the end.

Some notable changes occur as well. In this version, Jean introduces Ricky to Elvis Costello and Mos Def along with “Breeze”, the babes at the table. Jean’s claims for French innovation now include blow jobs and 69s instead of the menage a trois. Along with “F”-words in the added bus scene, that’s the kind of material that wouldn’t have passed muster for a “PG-13”.

The longer version actually drops a couple of bits. We don’t see young Ricky drive his mother’s car, and we don’t stop in at Lucius’s car wash when he gets the call to become pit chief again.

Please don’t take this as a complete roster of changes, for I probably missed some. I think I’ve accounted for most of them, though, so hopefully I didn’t neglect too many. In any case, the extended version of the movie works just as well as the theatrical cut, and one could argue the additions might even improve it. Since I thought the 108-minute edition was too long, this sounds counterintuitive, but that remains my impression.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus B

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. from director Adam McKay and “friends”. Actor Ian Roberts accompanies McKay for the entire track, while line producer Scott Kavanaugh joins them around the 45-minute mark. Don’t expect to learn anything about the film’s creation from this piece, as it prefers to take a comedic bent.

That means the participants talk about fictitious elements behind the flick. We learn of its $450 million plus budget, hiring Sean Penn and Donald Sutherland as extras, and many other excesses. The track comes chock full of ludicrous claims and much happy praise for a movie described as one of the greatest ever made.

The commentary gets off to a rocky start, though maybe I felt that way mostly because I anticipated a more straightforward discussion; I wasn’t too excited to get a spoof. I do think the guys needed a few minutes to settle in, though, so the first minutes aren’t particularly interesting. Matters improve from there, however, and quite a few funny bits emerge. I mourn the absence of a factual commentary, but at least this one’s entertaining.

Nine Deleted and Extended Scenes fill a total of 26 minutes, 15 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), “What’d You Do Today?” (3:02), “Cal Calls Ricky (TV Room v.1)” (2:20) 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.

Even more alternate footage pops up in Walker & Texas Ranger. This presents five minutes, 44 seconds of the movie’s obnoxious kids. I like the other stuff, but this section gets old pretty quickly; there’s only so much abrasiveness from little boys I can take. A fair amount of the material appears elsewhere, anyway.

Two similar features appear next. We find Ricky and Cal’s Commercials (1:38) and Ricky and Cal’s Public Service Announcements (2:38). Both expand on elements in the final film and provide decide entertainment.

Three sections appear under the banner of Interviews. We get “Ricky and Cal” (5:32), “Jean and Gregory” (3:48) 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, Curse of the Golden Flower, Little Man, An Evening with Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder, Seinfeld Season Seven and upcoming Blu-Ray titles.

Note that the extras on this DVD differ somewhat from those on the theatrical version. Each one has its own audio commentary, but otherwise everything from the theatrical disc repeats here. A few materials are exclusive to this package. Two deleted scenes - “What’d You Do Today?” and “Cal Calls Ricky (TV Room v.1)” – only show up on this disc, and it also boasts the “Jean and Gregory” interview. The extended cut is the only place to find “Walker & Texas Ranger”, “Ricky and Cal’s Commercials” and “Ricky and Cal’s Public Service Announcements”.

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 a mix of interesting extras. Although the flick doesn’t excel, it entertains and at least merits a rental.

Should fans go for the theatrical edition of Nights or this extended cut? I’d recommend the latter. The longer version of the film is a little more amusing, and the DVD provides superior extras. Both are good releases, but this one’s just a little better.

To rate this film visit the original review of TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main