Like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Will Ferrell’s previous collaboration with filmmaker Adam McKay, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby‘s few genuinely funny bits are wrapped up in an incredibly tedious, thoroughly predictable storyline. And although the movie is entertaining for a while – something that can be primarily attributed to the off-kilter yet engaging supporting performances – it’s not long before the leaden pace and egregiously familiar plot bring the proceedings to a dead halt. Ferrell stars as Ricky Bobby, an egomaniacal Nascar driver who finds his dominance of the sport threatened by a French import named Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen). Things go from bad to worse after Ricky is involved in a disastrous crash that leaves him unable to race, and his wife (Leslie Bibb) dumps him for his best friend (John C. Reilly). As expected, Ricky must put aside his hubris and stage a comeback to reclaim his place of glory. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby subjects Ricky Bobby to virtually the same arc as his Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy counterpart Ron Burgundy, right down to the public humiliation and brief stint at rock bottom. And while nobody would ever expect a silly comedy to possess an entirely fresh storyline, one can’t help but lament McKay and Ferrell’s (both of whom are credited with the film’s screenplay) decision to essentially carbon-copy Anchorman’s structure. It is subsequently exceedingly easy to focus on Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby‘ various deficiencies, particularly in its plot-heavy and strangely dramatic midsection. That being said, Ferrell remains a charming and engaging figure, and the actor is – more often than not – able to wring laughs out of even the most hackneyed situation. That he’s been surrounded by undeniably talented folks such as Gary Cole, Amy Adams, and John C. Reilly (the latter of whom deserves some kind of an award for his gleefully irreverent performance) ensures that the film is never entirely flat-out boring, although there’s simply no getting around the pervading feeling of mediocrity that’s been hard-wired into the whole thing.
** out of ****