Sony // 2006 // 122 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // September 12th, 2011
If you're not first, you're last.
I really don't understand Will Farrell's career. Don't get me wrong; I think he has his moments. His "more cowbell" routine is a beautiful example of comedy. Farrell is unhinged and unembarrassed in his ill-fitting clothes and awkward movements, and he plays off of Christopher Walken brilliantly. In these moments I can understand why people like Farrell. However, his appearances in feature films -- at least the ones he stars in -- are too often just a retread of his act on SNL. He's famous because he can't be embarrassed, and that works best in small doses. Sometimes, starring roles for him really strike a chord with audiences (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy), while others fall a bit flat (Semi-Pro). Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby falls somewhere in between, offering some funny moments from Farrell without delivering a consistent overall feature.
Talladega Nights is, unsurprisingly, the story of Ricky Bobby (Will Farrell), who grew up with the desire to race cars, and race them fast. When he finally gets his chance, he takes the racing world by storm. Everything is looking good until a French race car driver (Sasha Baron Cohen, Sweeney Todd) outdrives Ricky. While trying to win back his top spot, Ricky wrecks his car, leading to fears of paralysis and a struggle to race again.
Will Farrell's true genius might not be for comedic timing or physical pratfalls, but for surrounding himself with people he can work with. That's definitely the case with Talladega Nights. John C. Reilly anchors the supporting players, bringing the mix of seriousness and silliness that is his trademark, but he's not alone. Sasha Baron Cohen brings his usual funny voiced antics to the proceedings. Even some of the smaller parts, like Ricky's assistant, are staffed by the likes of Amy Adams. Judged purely on the talent of its cast, Talladega Nights would be a sure winner.
Talladega Nights, though, can't depend on its cast alone. Surely they are impressive, but this is a two-hour film we're being asked to watch (since this is, after all, the unrated cut of the film). At that length, Talladega Nights would have to do something pretty spectacular with the fallen sports hero story to justify that kind of running time. This is something the film simply doesn't do. The rise and fall of Ricky Bobby happens exactly as anyone who's seen a single sports film would expect. Because the film just adds jokes into the usual formula without trying to tweak or challenge it, the jokes have to carry the bulk of the audience's interest. That's always a dicey proposition, since some jokes will inevitably fall flat for some people. The problem gets even worse for those returning to the film; at that point both the plot and the jokes will be a bit stale.
The technical specs on this Blu-ray release are decidedly mixed. Since this was an early Blu-ray transfer, it's encoded with the MPEG-2 codec, which isn't a problem. What is a problem, though, is the totally bland look of this film. This is a decidedly average Blu-ray transfer. There's nothing really particular you could point to as being wrong, but no qualities jump out as particularly good either. It's a definite step up from DVD in terms of detail and black levels, but it doesn't stand up as a superior hi-def release. The audio, on the other hand, is a cut above. We get a uncompressed PCM surround that balances the dialogue effectively with the music, but this track really shines during the racing scenes. Music weaves in an out of engine sounds and squealing tires, creating a surprisingly immersive effect.
Extras start with a commentary by directory Adam McKay and actor Ian Roberts riffing on the film and movie commentaries. It tries to be funny, but a more technical track would have been appreciated. The real centerpiece of the extras is the collection of deleted scenes and outtakes, including a reel that's just the actors running through alternate punch lines. Some of the other materials are basically deleted scenes as well, including some PSAs from the film. We also get some promo stuff, like Will Farrell entertaining fans after filming at the speedway and some extra racing footage.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is an average Will Farrell film that receives a pretty average release. Fans of the film will appreciate the extras and solid audio, even if the video is only so-so. For those not familiar with the film, it's probably only recommended for fans of Farrell.
Guilty of the usual Farrell excesses.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* PCM 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 122 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Theatrical Version
* Deleted/Extended Scenes