"Anchorman" was a successful spoof of both the shallow television world and the blinkered attitudes of the 1970s. "Talladega Nights" tries to double up its satire as well, but its sports riffs are pretty lame and its political subtext -- American chauvinism versus French arrogance -- lacks imagination. Southern, French and gay stereotypes abound, but they're never delivered with much wit or style, and Cohen offers up a flat, one-note performance. And unlike in "Anchorman," Adam McKay's direction lacks punch. Obviously, Ferrell, who in addition to co-writing the movie was also one of its executive producers, thinks he's onto a great idea here, but he can't even get a clear handle on his own character, who's an inconsistent mix of the obnoxious and nice. John C. Reilly ("A Prairie Home Companion") is much better as Ricky Bobby's best friend and teammate, who chafes at finishing second to his buddy; unlike Ferrell, Reilly manages to play dumb in a smart way. Also a hoot is Gary Cole as Ricky Bobby's ne'er-do-well delinquent father. The rest of the cast, including Amy Adams ("Junebug') as Ricky Bobby's sweet girlfriend, makes a game effort, but they're the equivalent of bystanders watching as a car's wheels come off. "Talladega Nights" spins out early and never recovers. Starring Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen and Gary Cole. Directed by Adam McKay. Written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. Produced by Judd Apatow and Jimmy Miller. A Columbia release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language, drug references and brief comic violence. Running time: 107 min
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
The creative team behind "Anchorman: The Ron Burgundy Story" is back with a spoof of the car racing world, but "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" falls far short of "Anchorman's" often inspired brilliance. Will Ferrell ("Anchorman," "Elf") stars as Ricky Bobby, a not-too-bright Southern NASCAR driver who, nevertheless, is at the top of his sport. But then an accident and the unexpected appearance of a skilled, flamboyant French opponent (Sacha Baron Cohen) derails Ricky Bobby, who loses it all before attempting the comeback of the century.