My buddies and I incessantly quoted Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby for a good two years after its 2006 release. It is not high art, but may be Will Ferrell's funniest film (sorry, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, I still like you, too). Full of memorable one-liners and playful digs at Southern NASCAR culture, Talladega Nights offers a winning cast in Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Gary Cole, Michael Clarke Duncan, Leslie Bibb and Jane Lynch. This story of a bone-headed stock car driver and his redneck family has a beating heart, and provides enough absurdist humor for the most inebriated viewer. Hey, if you don't chew Big Red then f**k you!
From a young age Ricky Bobby (Ferrell), the man with two first names, wanted to go fast. He eventually graduates from the pit crew to driver and earns himself a hot NASCAR wife, Carley (Bibb), and plenty of money and fame. Ricky's two boys, Walker (Houston Tumlin) and Texas Ranger (Grayson Russell), are little assholes who constantly irritate their grandfather, Chip (Ted Manson). Carley's idea of a home-cooked meal is a table stacked with Taco Bell, KFC, Pepsi and Pizza Hut. Ricky's best buddy, Cal Naughton Jr. (Reilly), is just as dim as Ricky, but Cal soon grows tired of sharing the spotlight. An openly gay French driver, Jean Girard (Cohen), challenges Ricky, who turns to his assistant, Susan (Amy Adams), for inspiration. Hilarity ensues.
While Ferrell has proved himself with dramatic roles in films like Everything Must Go and Stranger Than Fiction, comedy remains his bailiwick. What makes Talladega Nights work is the rapid-fire, frequently ad-libbed dialogue, from Ferrell and writer/director Adam McKay. Ten years later, the film still feels fresh, and is miles funnier than more recent Ferrell comedies Daddy's Home and Get Hard. The writing, direction and acting all click, and Talladega Nights provides repeat laughs.
NASCAR and Southern excess are ripe to lampoon, but the film does so without malice. Ricky is dumb but loveable, and Talladega Nights wisely avoids making him some Bible-thumping, gun-toting nutjob. Highlights of the film include Ricky's ridiculous endorsement commercials, scenes with the late, natural and surprisingly funny Duncan, and the back-and-forth digs between Lynch and her two on-screen grandsons. The film makes you yearn for 2000s Ferrell. Calling this a new classic comedy is overselling the product, but Talladega Nights is a consistently funny film with plenty of replay value.
Sony gives the theatrical cut of the film a new 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image that is remastered at 4K from the original negative. The extended edition retains the same 2.40:1/1080p/MPEG-2 transfer from the original Blu-ray release. The new 4K remaster is better, but neither transfer is exceptional. For the 4K image, fine-object detail and texture are improved, but the image has an overall flat appearance and is plagued with blown-out highlights that rob the image of nuanced, refined details. Colors are bolder and better saturated in the remaster, and black levels are steadier. Compression is also better thanks to the AVC encode. This is not a bad image, but it is certainly middle of the road. I noticed some minor edge enhancement and aliasing, which is toned down in the 4K remaster.
The theatrical cut gets a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix. The extended cut retains the same 5.1 LPCM mix, which is actually slightly more impressive. Both offer reasonably immersive listening experiences, with whizzing stock cars to surround the viewer. Ambient and action effects utilize the surrounds and subwoofer, and dialogue is crystal clear from all channels. The score and popular music soundtrack are layered appropriately, and I noticed no technical flaws. The discs offer a number of lossy dubs and subtitle options.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc "Big Hairy American Winning Edition" is packed in an Elite case that is wrapped in a slipcover. The 108-minute theatrical cut is on Disc 1 and the 121-minute extended cut is on Disc 2. I think the theatrical cut is tighter and works better, but it's nice to have the option to watch both. As for extras, Disc 1 includes a "25 Years Later" Commentary with Director Adam McKay, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, which is sporadically amusing; Adam's Video Diaries (11:46/HD); Line-O-Rama (4:45/HD); Raw Takes (16:44/HD); Deleted and Extended Scenes (42:36/HD); Auditions (9:16/HD); Interviews (12:28/HD); and the Teaser (2:16/HD) and Theatrical (2:32/HD) trailers. Disc 2 includes a Commentary by the Director and Friends; more Deleted and Extended Scenes (25:54/HD); a Gag Reel (2:27/HD); Will Ferrell Returns to Talladega (5:26/HD); Ricky and Cal's Commercials (1:38/HD); Ricky and Cal's Public Service Announcement (2:38/HD); Bonus Race Footage (1:18/HD); and the Theatrical Trailer (2:32/HD).
Ricky Bobby endures. It's hard to believe this Will Ferrell comedy is now ten years old. I quoted the shit out of this absurdist, improv-heavy film in 2006, and it holds up surprisingly well. Sony's new two-disc Blu-ray offers a remastered but mediocre picture and plenty of supplements. Recommended.