Fast-Paised review: 'Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby'

NASCAR champion Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) is threatened by newcomer Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen), a gay, French Formula One driver. With John C. Reilly, Gary Cole and Michael Clarke Duncan. Written by Ferrell and Adam McKay ("Anchorman"), who also directed.

Big question: Can "Talladega Nights" duplicate the hilarity of the stupid but laugh-until-you-cry "Anchorman"?

Skip it: Without someone like Christina Applegate's ambitious newswoman in "Anchorman," "Talladega Nights" lacks any sane figure to balance out the constant barrage of its characters' sometimes-funny idiocy. The script underutilizes Reilly and Cohen and wastes supporting parts by Amy Adams and David Koechner; by so often falling back on Ferrell's no-holds-barred foolishness, "Talladega Nights" seems to be driving in circles.

Catch it: For Adams' one major scene, as passionate a delivery of inspirational drivel as you'll see this year.

Bottom line: The performances are all hilarious, but "Talladega Nights" goes for cheap shots at Southerners and gays rather than mining clever comedy from its ultra-ripe NASCAR subject matter. As a result, the movie is as throwaway as a bumper sticker and a few gay jokes short of a "Will and Grace" episode.

Bonus: As it turns out, Applebee's is a great special-occasion dining destination. Nothing's classier than mozzarella sticks!

Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.


'Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby'

Directed by Adam McKay; screenplay by Will Ferrell and McKay; cinematography by Oliver Wood; edited by Brent White; production design by Clayton R. Hartley; music by Alex Wurman; produced by Jimmy Miller and Judd Apatow. A Columbia Pictures release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:50. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for crude and sexual humor, language, drug references and brief comic violence).

Ricky Bobby - Will Ferrell

Cal Naughton Jr. - John C. Reilly

Jean Girard - Sacha Baron Cohen

Reese Bobby - Gary Cole

Lucius Washington - Michael Clarke Duncan

Carley Bobby - Leslie Bibb

Lucy Bobby - Jane Lynch

Susan - Amy Adams

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