Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Movie Review: Talledaga Nights

4.6 out of 5 stars

Every so often a movie comes along that defines a culture and a generation of that culture. This film does that with the culture that is NASCAR. And in defining it, the movie makes anyone familiar in any way with the culture (or just hick southern culture, at that), chuckle deep into their belly until tears run down their cheeks.

Ricky Bobby is a child scarred by his father leaving him and his mother and rarely showing back up. In 6th grade, his father shows back up for a father's job fair and tells Ricky (as he gets kicked out of the school for insulting Ricky's teacher) that "If you're not first, you're last!" And it is that motto that Ricky lives the rest of his life by.

Ricky starts off the film as a pit crew member along with his best friend Cal Noughton Jr. (played brilliantly by John C. Reilly - with his Magnolia mustache back) for the worst driver in NASCAR. When the driver decides to take a break to get a chicken sandwich, the crew boss asks if anyone wants to drive...FAST. Of course, Ricky jumps in and begins his career as a driver. He is a few laps behind when he takes the car over and drives so fast that he ends up taking 3rd place, which makes him the talk of the NASCAR community.

From there, Ricky quickly becomes the #1 driver in NASCAR. His best friend Cal, per Ricky's orders, becomes his teammate and becomes Ricky's set up man. Their "shake and bake" brings the NASCAR community to its knees and Ricky makes a ton of money, along with adding a "smoking red hot wife", which leads to his two sons Walker and Texas Ranger, who are potty mouthed brats encouraged by their father to be jerks because "winners get to say what they want".

One of the funniest scenes was the scene at the family table the day before a race where Ricky prays to the sweet baby Jesus and the prayer devolves into a discussion of what Jesus really means to each person at the table. Ricky likes to think of Jesus as a 8lb6oz baby wearing golden diapers, while Ricky's wife reminds him that Jesus did, in fact, grow up to be a man. Cal's view of who Jesus is is also interesting. During this scene, I actually saw people walk out of the movie, and I had friends who experienced the same thing. Personally, I did not find the dialogue in any way offensive except calling out Southern culture for their attitude of nonchalance with who Christ truly is.

Ricky and all his friends celebrate their newest win by going to their favorite bar hangout, where they play pool and drink beer and talk about how great Ricky is. With Skynard going in the background, it couldn't get much better for the boys. Suddenly, jazz starts playing and of course, the boys freak out because it's obviously "gay music". Now, we are introduced to our protaganist - Jean Girard (played brilliantly by the very funny Sacha Baron Cohen) - and his husband Gregory. Girard is a Forumla 1 racer who has decided to come to America to take on Ricky Bobby to prove which is the better driver.

The rest of the film follows Ricky's fall from grace, which we all saw in the previews. He thinks his car is on fire, he thinks he's paralyzed, he generally just goes crazy and forgets how to drive. He loses his wife to Cal and moves back in with his mother, becoming a pizza delivery driver. Then his father comes back into his life and teaches him how to drive again. The whole fall and fight back to the top is the only slow part of the movie, but there are still very, very funny sections.

On a sidenote: during this time, Ricky's mother takes Walker and Texas Ranger and turns them into church-going, choir-singing, bible-thumping, well-behaved young men. Another stab at Southern culture: grandparents really do the parenting.

He decides to race at Talledega as an indie racer and we all know he will win. However, it's how he wins that is somewhat hilarious.

Now, I have specifically left out a lot of stuff in this review because I do not want to ruin the movie for you. This is definitely one of the top 10 funniest movies I've ever seen and it deserves you watching it. You will laugh your stomach sore, I promise.


Tami said...

I loved this movie!! Not much of a Will Ferrell fan, with the total exception of this movie, but I definitely appreciate your movie reviews!

And I must add that Karen, is probably the best underrated character in this movie! :)

sunny said...

I'm a total will ferrell fan..and am glad to have found this review of yours on a will ferrell movie.

Have you seen Blades of Glory yet? curious what you think of it.

AshG said...

This review makes me want to come at you like a spider monkey...

dblade said...

Great Review!! Sorry I never saw it prior to AI closing down your blog.

My wife, son, daughter, and I were all extras in this movie (made the final cut), thus my opinion is most definitely biased, but we had a lot of fun and met almost all of the stars.

Wow... what a lot of work for a few seconds of fame in a movie. Quite unbelievable how much time is spent on every scene! For example… my daughter spent a 10 ½ hour day to be visible in about 2 seconds of the movie.

Anonymous said...

shake and bake