You know the phrase, “I laughed so hard I cried”? It can really happen, as this movie happened to me. I thought Anchorman was funny but silly. The Legend of Ron Burgundy team is back with The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Here the Adam McKay/Will Ferrell style of grand goofiness is taken to a whole new level. Everyone gets funny lines, right down to each member of the pit crew.

When people start gushing about the dream casts of All the King’s Men or The Departed, they are just asking for a Talladega bomb to get dropped:

Will Ferrell
Sacha Baron Cohen (TV’s Ali G & Borat)
John C. Reilly
Michael Clark Duncan
Jane Lynch
Gary Cole
Amy Adams
Molly Shannon
Greg Germann
Andy Richter
Rob Riggle
Ian Roberts
Jack McBrayer

Continue reading about Talladega Nights (minor spoilers)…
The last three are guys I’ve seen perform long-form improv on a regular basis for the last five years at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade theaters in NYC and LA. I mention this, because this movie has the feel of a good Del Close-style Harold. Every scene is full of comedic games and an ‘oh yeah, top this’ attitude to the performances that is awe-inspiringly good. Del would approve of the limbic dexterity in such lines as “Ima comatchu like a spidermonkey” and “What everyone hopes to do in their retirement, design a currency for cats and dogs.”

The plot itself isn’t perfect, although it does manage more sincerity than Little Miss Sunshine even as an afterthought to the comedic setpieces. Director Adam McKay, former head writer for Saturday Night Live and Second City improviser knows well when to let the performers off-leash (as the credit out-takes demonstrate). Giddy on budget, he lets one or two ridiculously unnecessary CG shots into the otherwise efficiently shot racing sequences. But this movie is really about the performances.

Sacha Baron Cohen strays into Johnny Depp territory, playing Bobby’s French rival with such straight-faced whimsy that it approaches camp — but in the final analysis, his performance is the prefect antidote to Ferrell’s chevychasian cluelessness. Jane Lynch and Gary Cole are outstanding as the parents of Ricky Bobby; but it is John C. who proves Ferrell’s worthiest sparring partner. As life-long friends and then hapless rivals, their relationship forms the heart of the movie; and whenever the two were talking to each other on screen, I could not stop laughing.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is in a tie for first as my favorite movie this year. While Tristram Shandy was funny and deep, Taladega was deeply funny.

A PARALLAX VIEW: Scott Macaulay’s gushing praise.