At first glance, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby looks like a re-iteration of the last film from star Will Ferrell and his writing partner (and director) Adam McKay, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. The jut-jawed clueless self-confidence of the title character; the moments of wacky flailing captured in the trailer; the colon-split title firmly positioning the film in the realm of the mock-mythic. And Talladega Nights is somewhat similar to Anchorman; it's also far superior in a number of ways, and serves as a nice demonstration of how story structure and stupid comedy can work -- and work well -- together.
Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) had a pretty simple childhood: Dreams of being a racecar driver, and a father, Reese Bobby (Gary Cole), who stepped out to get some milk one evening and didn't come back for about 10 years. Raised by his homespun, no-nonsense mom (Jane Lynch, in another deadpan comedy performance), Ricky kept hearing his father's words in head like a curse: "If you ain't first, you're last." In time, he became a NASCAR pit crew member; one day, fate gave him a chance to "go real fast" on the track, and now he's become the top winner in the game: Fame, endorsements and success.
But between winning races and thwarting the ambition of his co-driver Cal Naughton, Jr. (John C. Reilly), between endorsing feminine hygiene products ("Maxpad: The official tampon of NASCAR.") and neglecting the raising of his sons Walker (Houston Tumlin) and Texas Ranger (Grayson Russell), Ricky may have lost sight of ... himself. The racing game is changing; a new force on the track, the openly gay French Formula One driver Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) is challenging Ricky Bobby's top spot ... and after a terrifying crash, Ricky Bobby has to rebuild his life.