In my last post I mentioned that we'd been to see "Talladega Nights," the new movie with Will Ferrell, and since my daughter, probably most faithful of my blog readers, asked what I'd thought of it, I told her, or tried to, and will do so here perhaps more successfully.
My problem is that I'd hoped it would successfully lampoon some of the extreme points of view taken by those we've begun to associate with the Nascar crowd (not that I think it's fair to do so). Throw in some commentary on homophobia, hard-headed religious beliefs, commercialism, declining family values, and international relations, and see how it mixes with the back-slapping, lead-foot, drinkin' and drivin', my country right or wrong crowd. But I don't think it was successfully connecting this lampooning with its audience.
Some of it I liked. Will Ferrell is a funny guy, and he's willing to go the extra mile for the laughs, putting himself and any dignity aside, as in a scene where he runs around the track clad only in his whitey tighteys and his helmet after a wreck. I laughed right along with all the little kids, just like I did when in "Elf" he similarly was silly and innocent. I've seen the "Saturday Night Live" episodes too where Ferrell plays an excellent and hilarious George Bush, and I suspect he's got some critical views of the president's stands.
But if the film is satire, that is, if it means to illustrate the weaknesses of the behaviors depicted, then I'm not sure it works. I need an example here. In one scene a gay Frenchman says he's going to break Ricky Bobby's arm if Ricky doesn't say he likes crepes, or at least thin pancakes--a reasonable compromise, says Cal, Ricky's lifelong "Shake and Bake" buddy and fellow driver. Ricky refuses, partly because the Frenchman is gay, and Jean breaks Ricky's arm. As Ricky is about to faint, he comments on how homosexuality is wrong, ending with a word to Cal: "I love you, buddy." Or words to that effect.
Get it? If it's satire, then you need to get it. You need to hear the enjambment of one kind of love and the other. But I don't think viewers did get it. It's like someone not realizing you're being sarcastic. You've got to explain, or they think you're a fool.
Anyway, I wanted this to be brief. But there were other troubles. Watching Ricky's sons badmouth their grandfather early in the movie was painful in a funny kind of way.
The wife says Ferrell was more often going for the quick and easy laugh, rather than crafting a scene that was funny and telling. I agree. But I do think there's some commentary on contemporary American culture, and I think it's worth seeing, noticing where the film complicates the issues, and yet still keeps the viewer interested.