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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby 

The first thing people ask me about Talladega Nights is, “is it as funny as Anchorman?” The short answer: No. Anchorman had a much stronger supporting cast, boasting names from Paul Rudd to Steve Carell to Tim Robbins. Talladega Nights is far more insular. It’s Will Ferrell’s ride all the way, and his brand of comedy is an esoteric one. He is not now, nor do I think he ever will be, a leading man.

It’s clear that this cluster of directors, actors, and writers are no longer creating films for a large audience. More and more they make movies for themselves, and ask us to join in. The formula is most clearly evident in Steve Carell’s Brick character in Anchorman: ridiculous statements juxtaposed with sweetly sincere people who are also functionally retarded. Everyone’s absurd, in word and deed; the joke is that we know it and they don’t. The joke only has so much mileage.

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