I was wondering why they called it a ballad. At its core, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” is a simple story about love. Not a love story, but a story about a simple man who learns what love is and how limitless it can be. And it’s the characters who teach him this lesson that make – and break – the film.Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) is a man who takes life as he sees it and the first half of the movie shows him riding out the philosophy: If you’re not first, you’re last. When this stops working for him, he begins to see all kinds of truths in the family and friends surrounding him.As a hero of the NASCAR culture, Ricky Bobby follows his own rules, as do his two kids. Sons Walker and Texas Ranger are a highlight of the film. The lines given to the younger Texas Ranger (Grayson Russell) are hilarious – both when he’s an irreverent kid following the lead of his father and when he’s a polite and conscious kid following the lead of his grandmother.Bobby’s best friend Cal Naughton Jr. (John C. Reilly) is as dynamic of a character as the lead when he realizes the motives behind his own actions. Bobby’s wife Carley (Leslie Bibb) is perfect in her one-mindedness of her own philosophy: “I do not work.” Gary Cole as Bobby’s father Reese begins as a solidly creepy guy and ends up as a lovable man. And Will Ferrell’s acting is poised and convincing. Although he’s played similar parts, he’s never done it better.Bobby’s rival in the film, French driver Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen), is noticeably uninteresting, however. Even his life partner (Andy Richter, former sidekick to Conan O’Brien) who only gets a few moments of screentime is funnier than his counterpart. Girard’s Pepe Le Pew characterization never falters in being boring and not funny. It’s probably safe to say that all the scenes tainted with this flat character are nearly ruined. Maybe they were just trying to get us not to like him, but it needs work. As it is, it just makes me like the movie less. And his storyline, unlike the others in the film, doesn’t really make sense.”Talladega Nights” is consistently funny. I often found myself not finished laughing at one joke before the next one made me crack up all over again.Vail, Colorado
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