High speed, high thrills auto racing under the banner of NASCAR (the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) is one of the most popular spectator sports across the heartland of America. This fact has apparently reached Hollywood and the result is a new film comedy starring Will Ferrell as a champion driver. Alan Silverman has this look at Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
Ricky Bobby may not be the brightest bulb in the pack, but he definitely knows how to pull away from the pack as he drives his "Team Wonder Bread" car to win one championship after another:
A crisis of confidence sends Ricky Bobby's career into a spin-out; but through determination, grit and, just plain ignorance, he climbs back behind the wheel.
Talladega Nights is co-written and directed by Adam Mckay, who began his collaboration with Will Ferrell on the TV sketch comedy show "Saturday Night Live." McKay says this auto racing comedy is in the tradition of their 2004 hit comedy film about a TV newscaster, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.
"The very first thing we had was just the name, Ricky Bobby," said Mr. McKay. "As soon as we had that Will started doing the character and I said 'all right, I think we can do a movie based on this.'"
Like all professional sports, the NASCAR circuit is filled with flamboyant personalities, but Will Ferrell won't admit to basing this film's central character on any one of them:
"I can't really say that it came from any one person or thought or anything. As Adam and I wrote the script it just evolved," said Mr. Ferrell. "He's just kind of an amalgamation, in my mind, of the brash, cocky, Southern race car driver. It's just our fun way of playing around with the stereotype.
However, very aware of how serious NASCAR fans are about the races, Ferrell insists the film is not mocking them or their passion for fast cars.
"When we started talking to NASCAR, we were very clear that we wanted to show off the sport in terms of the actual racing," he added. "We wanted to make that real and intense and make that as authentic as possible. For us, this wasn't so much a movie about making fun of characters sitting in the stands and the fans; it was more about the outlandish characters that exist in this world. We feel like we struck that balance between having fun, but not poking too much fun."
Sexy Carly Bobby is played, with gusto and really tight outfits, by Leslie Bibb. "Sometimes people think 'less is more;' Carly thinks 'more is more.' I love her because she is so blunt," she explains. "Don't ask her opinion, because you will not like the response and she always does it with a smile, which is very Southern, I think. 'I smile, so it's okay.'"
John C. Reilly co-stars as Ricky Bobby's teammate and sidekick, Cal. "I really like about Will and Adam that they don't try to 'dumb down' their material," he noted. "They're not afraid of putting intellectual, weird things into these big, broad comedies. For instance, in the final race when I'm talking to my crew chief about how to process what just happened with me and Ricky, Adam said 'say, like, when Kierkegaard wrote about the relativity ...' and I said 'what do you mean, Kierkegaard? What are you talking about?' He answered 'just say it.' They don't try to make it a little less intelligent for the audience so they get it. They go, purely, with what they think is funny and interesting and they encourage that from other people."
Ferrell calls it a balancing act between clever verbal humor and silly slapstick physical comedy. "While these types of comedies are extremely broad, we still like to have the audience come away with these different types of clever lines. That's just a mixture of the actors the find who are able to improvise and our awesome writing," added Mr. Ferrell.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby also features English comic actor Sacha Baron Cohen, Oscar nominee Amy Adams and cameos by several real life NASCAR champions including Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Darrell Walltrip.