Considering the recent defection of Juan Pablo Montoya to NASCAR, and the rumours that Jacques Villeneuve may soon follow him, the timing of the film is remarkably apposite.
But there’s not exactly a rich pedigree of fine motor sport films for it to draw on. So, is it any good?
Being British and being a self-confessed Formula 1 fan (you have noticed this site’s called F1 Fanatic, right?) Talladega Nights is a little tricky to get a handle on. I can’t honestly judge whether it parodies the stereotypes of Formula 1 we associate with NASCAR fans, or if it plays to them.
For example: Ricky Bobby’s nemesis Jean Girard, played by Sacha Baron Cohen (Ali G, Borat), is a gay Frenchman who wears sponsorship from Perrier water. (Also, Baron Cohen’s French accent wanders off to Putney every now and then).
Bobby’s best friend Cal Naughton Jnr (John C. Reilly) keeps shouting “Shake and Bake”. It’s not clear why.
The film suffers from a few major drawbacks. First: there’s not actually very much racing at all. Two sequences bookend the picture but the bulk of material in the middle just feels like Anchorman: NASCAR edition.
Second: the script suffers from catastrophic sense of humour failure. The jokes are there, they just aren’t funny. A couple of them don’t make the trip across the Atlantic very well, but mostly they’re just obvious and witless.
Third: the plot is predictable and none of the characters have any redeeming qualities. I spent a good portion of the film wondering if I was supposed to be rooting for Cal Naughton, before he too turned out to be as much a meritless imbecile as the rest of them.
Before going to see Talladega Nights I really didn’t want to end up slating it.
No, I don’t much care for NASCAR racing. But motor sport films are rare enough to be interesting in their own right. In recent years we’ve had this and Sylvester Stallone’s abject Driven (about Champ Car racing, originally supposed to be about F1).
You might get some kicks out of Talladega Nights in a ‘so bad it’s good’ kind of way. You might find the ‘what NASCAR fans think of F1′ dimension interesting. But I can’t recommend it otherwise.