starring Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Gary Cole
screenplay by Will Ferrell & Adam McKay
directed by Adam McKay
by Walter Chaw I feel about Will Ferrell the way I feel about Jack Black: that they're good second-fiddles on occasion, but put them in a lead role and my eyeballs roll into the back of my head. Imagine my surprise that Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (hereafter Talledega Nights) showcases Ferrell's Faulknerian idiot man-child to great advantage in a vehicle that's sharp, smart, topical, and funny. It's an exuberant satire in every sense of the abused term--a twisting of familiar elements into grotesquerie that brings to light the essential absurdity of the familiar, sketching a portrait of the divide between the blue states and the red states with a feather bludgeon. It's this year's Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, doing for anti-intellectual animals and effete eggheads what that film did for the racism leveled in popular culture at "favoured" minorities. This is the finest document yet of the special brand of idiocy that compels our noble Congress to rename French Fries and French toast in their commissary or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the air of noblesse oblige that taints the highbrow's mincing, faux-outraged response. Credit Talladega Nights for this: no one's necks have ever been redder than those sported by these self-described retards, and no brainy gay Frenchmen have ever been this gay and French.