A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Talladega Nights includes relentless commercial product placements, by way of parodying professional racing's tendency to slap logos on every available surface. The film also features lots of bawdy chatter concerning a wayward father's lusty behaviors and his son's cheating wife. The hero's two young sons spend half the movie behaving badly -- talking back to elders, cursing, and damaging property -- as their father, a stereotypical "redneck" parody, encourages them. An arm-breaking scene includes loud bone-breaking noise; several car crashes are violent (cars flipping and smashing and catching on fire). Same-sex and opposite-sex couples kiss; one gay character is portrayed very flamboyantly (continuing the movie's trend of stereotypical characterizations). Characters refer to drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
At an early age, Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) falls in love with speed. As an adult, Ricky goes from NASCAR pit crew member to a driving partnership with teammate Cal Naughton (John C. Reilly): They perfect a tag-teaming system they call "shake 'n' bake," by which Cal maneuvers on the track in ways that always allow Ricky to win. Ricky turns out to be an ungracious winner, though. He marries a gold-digging busty blond, Carley (Leslie Bibb), turns out a couple of obnoxious sons, and gets rich thanks to endorsement contracts. While he keeps Cal close, their relationship is premised on Ricky's superiority and his friend's abject subservience. All this ends when a challenger appears on the circuit. The French-born Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) is everything Ricky is not: literate, witty, and openly gay. He's also a very good driver and brutally efficient: On their first encounter in a bar, Jean breaks Ricky's arm, thus putting him out of racing commission. When Ricky returns to the track, he gets in an accident so traumatizing that he believes he's paralyzed. Losing his riches, wife, and contracts, Ricky must then struggle back to the top of his heap.
Is it any good?
Both vulgar and cheerful, like most other Will Ferrell movies, TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY is also slightly tricky. It makes fun of multiple targets, using equally obnoxious tactics. No one is spared: It mocks stereotypically "redneck" NASCAR culture as well as other groups (gays, foreigners, and intellectuals). It's a parody, but kids may miss the point.
While this story is simple enough, the execution is often startlingly maladroit. While there is plainly an enthusiastic audience for the Anchorman school of filmmaking, this incarnation seems more a string of skits (namely, opportunities for Ferrell to act silly, which he does well) than a movie per se. In fact, the closing credits over outtakes is the funnier version of this approach. So if you go, stay through to the end.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the terrible role models provided by the parents over subsequent generations. How is Ricky's father disappointing to him, and how does Ricky raise his own children to be lazy, selfish, and rude? What's Ricky's mother's role in the film?
They can also talk about whether this parody challenges or reinforces stereotypes about NASCAR.
- In theaters: August 4, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: December 12, 2006
- Cast: John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Will Ferrell
- Director: Adam McKay
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Cars and Trucks
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: crude and sexual humor, language, drug references and brief comic violence
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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