We'd imagine the pitch session for Talladega Nights went something like this: Adam McKay walks into the offices of Elf producer Jimmy Miller, who happens to have a lot of cash. He kicks the door down, bottle of whiskey in hand, and says six words, "Will Ferrell as a NASCAR driver." He then proceeds to piss on Miller' secretary while popping a few "black betties" to get his morning off right.
The second collaboration between Adam McKay and Will Ferrell (their first film being a little known ditty called Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy) is based on such a solid premise, and plays so well to Ferrell' strengths, that they could have done anything they wanted with it and it still would have rocked. And rock it does.
We really shouldn't go into too much detail about the plot, since it basically boils down to Will Ferrell as a racecar driver, but here it goes: Ricky Bobby (Ferrell) is destined to be first. After all, his father (Gary Cole) was doing 120mph in his muscle car while Ricky was born in the backseat. At career day, Mr. Bobby tells his son, "If you're not first, you're last," and from that point forward Ricky' got a one-track mind.
Years later, he becomes a racecar driver, gets a hot wife, sires two kick-ass sons (Walker and Texas Ranger) and spends every waking hour with his best friend and teammate, Cal Naughton, Jr. (John C. Reilly, or "that guy from Boogie Nights" to most). Ricky' entire life is going swell when, all of a sudden, the evil (and gay) French Formula 1 racer Jean Girrard (Sacha Baron Cohen) swoops in to steal Ricky' thunder. He' accompanied by his husband, Gregory (Andy Richter, the only person the film underutilized), who is also gay.
Ferrell is, once again, highly quotable and will spawn many a DVD sale when it' released, but the supporting cast is what makes this flick worth seeing. John C. Reilly' transformation from dimwitted second-stringer to the self-proclaimed "Magic Man," is a site to behold. Anyone who saw his improvised outtakes from Boogie Nights will not be surprised that he put in a genius performance. His finest moments actually come during the end credits as he rambles about roaming packs of dogs in scenes that probably would have been included if Ferrell had been able to keep from laughing. The outtakes also feature Michael Clarke Duncan (the dude from The Green Mile that wasn't Tom Hanks) singing Diana Ross. Basically, we're saying that you shouldn't leave before the credits.
McKay slows the flick down through the second half, allowing Gary Cole to turn in a performance as the most kick-ass deadbeat dad ever, and more importantly, allowing Will Ferrell fight a cougar. Also on display, a dead-on lampooning of NASCAR, Sacha "Borat" Cohen going line for line with Ferrell, a sweet hick-rock soundtrack, Granny Law and the single greatest placement of an Applebee' commercial in film history.
Regardless of what the New Yorkers of the world will write about Talladega Nights, throughout most of the film, the entire theater was laughing. Ferrell walks through each scene with such hilarious machismo-"If you don't like Big Red, then fuck you"-that you have trouble trying to hear what else he' saying while everybody is laughing. As it is, the only problem with Talladega Nights is that it doesn't come with a list of quotable lines for you to bring into the office the next day.