Hey, how come nobody told me how good Talladega Nights
is? (Nobody except Lee Walker, that is, and his comments seem to be MIA.) I went in expecting another Anchorman
—i.e., another occasionally hilarious but scattershot serving of DVD extras disguised as a movie. Instead, it's a consistently funny summer comedy that actually has a look and a point of view. It made me laugh more than The 40 Year Old Virgin
and Kicking and Screaming
combined, and if it never quite reaches the high spots that Old School
hits—I'll never hear "Total Eclipse of the Heart" again without convulsing—it doesn't have that movie's many slow stretches either.
Will Ferrell so far hasn't shown the demand to be loved that turns a good comic actor into a royal ass-pain, and John C. Reilly as his loyal bud gets laughs with pure gung-ho cluelessness—the scene where he describes his velvet-painting concept of Jesus is one for the ages. But the actor who kept cracking me up is Gary Cole, who plays Ricky Bobby's deadbeat dad. Best known as the bovine Lumbergh from Office Space
, Cole does a dead-on parody of beer-stoked belligerence: he's like a cross between Burt Reynolds in White Lightning
and David Cross' Mr. Show
trailer-trash fugitive Ronnie Dobbs.
Why did I enjoy this movie so much? For one thing, it kept surprising me. It's cool that Ricky Bobby's gay French-existential rival (Sacha Baron Cohen) becomes something more complex than a goofy stereotype and earns the movie's respect. It's also not the anti-intellectual sucking-up-to-Bubba movie you might expect. (Stay after the closing credits for a gag that will gladden the heart of your freshman high-school English teacher.) And its satire of red-state religious pandering and the obsession with being No. 1 or nothing seems affectionate—unlike the inexplicably popular Little Miss Sunshine
, which spends much of its running time yanking the wings off flies. If Ricky Bobby, Cal and Jean Girard had action figures, I'd display 'em proudly on the same shelf with my beloved J. Jonah Jameson and Mr. Pink.