Racing Movie Project: Talladega Nights – The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Talladega NightsMovie: Talladega Nights – The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Year: 2006

Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Gary Cole, Michael Clarke Duncan

Plot: Driver Ricky Bobby rises to fame with his best friend Cal, only to be challenged by French F1 driver Jean Girard.

Rating: ⚐⚐⚐ (out of 5)

My thoughts: Talladega Nights takes every NASCAR stereotype and turns them up to 11. Throw in Will Ferrell and company and hilarity ensues. There are so many lines that still live on from this movie. “If you’re not first, you’re last!” “Shake and bake!” “I wanna go fast!” And of course, baby Jesus.

Hard to believe this movie is eight years old. Seems like it just came out. But even in that eight-year period, a lot has changed. Many of the car sponsors no longer exist, and the Nextel Cup Series is long gone. NASCAR has been through multiple generations of cars, and the stands are not nearly as full as they used to be.  It made me realize that Talladega Nights was made at the height of NASCAR.

Talladega Nights was also made right around the time of the open wheel experiment, when open wheels drivers such as Juan Pablo Montoya and Dario Franchitti made the move to the closed cockpits of NASCAR. As we’ve seen, open wheel drivers have been unable to make the transition. The one exception may be Tony Stewart. But isn’t Tony Stewart the exception to almost every rule?

Throughout the Racing Movie Project, I noticed that filmmakers need a device that demonstrates that our hero driver is going faster. Thus, the driver literally shifts into the next gear and goes faster. Sure, if you’re driving on a road course, that might work. But that’s not going to work on an oval, where the driver has the pedal to the metal pretty much the whole time. One of the biggest offenders of this “shift” device is Talladega Nights. Every time we see it now, Matt and I just chuckle.

Next week: With the Daytona 500 right around the corner, next week is the last week of the Racing Movie Project. In honor of NASCAR’s Super Bowl, we’ll be talking Days of Thunder.

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