With Rush out in theaters, we wanted to revisit another racing classic of two bitter rivals whose competition drove them to not only be better drivers but also better people. That’s right, we are talking about Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, which sees the title character (Will Ferrell) face many obstacles on his quest to prove he is the best race car driver in NASCAR all while being pitted against his polar opposite, French driver Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Coehn).
Where Ricky is sponsored by Wonder Bread, Jean is sponsored by Perrier. Ricky is married to “stone cold fox” Carley (Leslie Bibb) while Jean is married to world-class German Shepherd trainer Gregory (Andy Richter). But the major difference between these two drivers is Ricky truly loves to race whereas Jean is starting to find himself drawn to other pursuits – you know, things like training Komodo dragons in Sri Lanka and teaching them to perform Hamlet.
Talladega Nights is classic Ferrell taking on a caricature of not only NASCAR drivers but also the world that, uh, drives this sport. Neither Ricky Bobby nor Talladega Nights ever hesitate to dive head first into stereotypes, but it also immediately takes the wind out of those ideas without coming across as preaching. Ferrell leads the charge, but the entire cast is hilarious and prove that no one in the film is just there as set dressing. Everyone has a punch line to deliver.
Join us as we look at ten of our favorite scenes from the movie below.
“I Wanna Go Fast!”
Ricky may have wanted to go fast since he was a little boy, but adult Ricky instead finds himself on a pit crew helping other drivers go fast (at least he gets to work with his best friend Cal, played by John C. Riley). When one of his team’s drivers has little interest in continuing the race, Ricky steps up to help keep the team’s sponsors from “shitting a chicken” and proves he does not just want to go fast, he is actually a pretty good driver! It is an interesting way to bring Ricky into the world of racing as a pit crew member who happened to get a lucky break rather than a precocious kid who always wanted to be a race care driver and naturally became one.
Which Jesus Do You Pray To?
The big laugh in this scene first comes from seeing the feast Carley has “prepared for her family,” but Talladega Nights goes beyond corporate sponsorship (and American eating habits) to take on a bigger question: which version of Jesus do you pray to when saying grace? Ricky is partial to Baby Jesus (and all the various ways you can describe him) while Cal likes to think of Jesus with giant eagle wings singing lead for Lynyrd Skynyrd (or in a tuxedo t-shirt) and Ricky’s son Walker (Houston Tumlin) prefers to picture Jesus as a ninja. Ferrell’s classic deadpan delivery when it comes to his description of Baby Jesus is certainly the focus of the scene, but the specific descriptions from everyone else’s favorite Jesus will make you question which Jesus you prefer as well.
The reveal of Ricky’s sons names, Walker and Texas Ranger (Grayson Russell) is hilarious enough, but when the boys start sassing off to their grandfather, Chip (Ted Manson), much to Ricky and Carley’s delight, it becomes clear that things are a bit off in the Bobby household. Tumlin and Russell’s performances are spot on as two sweet looking boys with razor sharp tongues, but it is Carley who delivers one of the best lines in the scene when she reveals what she and Ricky would have named their sons if they wanted boys who did not know how to bring the heat. This scene certainly helps set things up for these character’s future growth, but it also shows that every character, whether young or old, is set up to nail a joke because everyone in the film is there to add to the humor, not just round out the cast.
France vs. America
Ricky is on top of the world, but that does not last long when Girard enters the picture and challenges Ricky’s skills while representing everything Ricky claims to hate. Jean aggravates him immediately by playing jazz music on Ricky’s local bar’s jukebox, but Jean cleverly makes Ricky realize there are things about Jean’s culture he enjoys – who doesn’t love a good crepe? This scene sets up a bitter rivalry between these two drivers, but it also works as a subtle (and at times, not so subtle) nod at how people’s preconceptions about one another really are ridiculous when you break them down.
Competition can bring out the best in athletes, but it can also make them reckless as they try to do anything they can to win. Ricky unfortunately pushes things a bit too far and ends up wrecking his car in his pursuit to beat Jean. Ricky seems to escape the wreck fairly unscathed, but Ricky is convinced he is on fire and quickly strips down to his underwear, running around the track screaming to every holy person he can think of to help put the fire out. Getting into a major accident would shake anyone’s confidence, but Ricky’s immediate freak out as he refuses to accept he is okay takes a serious accident and gives it some Ferrell humor.
“Don’t You Put That Evil On Me!”
Just as Ricky thought he was on fire immediately after his accident, he then convinces himself he is paralyzed and will never walk (let alone drive) again. It is obvious this is an easy way to avoid getting into another race car without admitting his fear, but when his teammates try to give him some tough love and get him to admit he is fine, Ricky takes things a step further and stabs himself in his own leg to prove he is truly paralyzed. Obviously his injury is only in his head, and this is something that can and does happen to people in traumatic accidents, and this scene is memorable not only because of how adamant Ricky is that he is hurt (and how he lashes out over it) but also how misguided Cal and Lucius (Michael Clarke Duncan) are as they try and knock some sense into Ricky.
Facing the Fear
Ricky’s deadbeat dad Reese (Gary Cole) comes back to help Ricky overcome the fear set in him after his accident, and he has some “unconventional” methods. Ricky is terrified to get back behind the wheel, but you do not blame him when Ricky discovers Reese has put a cougar in the car as his passenger. Reese’s tactic is a bit extreme, but the message that you sometimes have to face your fear head on to get over it is true and an inevitable part of anyone’s recovery. Ricky’s pride and desire to defeat Jean may have led to his accident, but it becomes clear his recovery and road to getting back to being the best will be a solo pursuit, even if he has Reese there to help and Jean waiting to pick up where they left off.
Susan Reenacts a White Snake Music Video
Susan (Amy Adams) is first introduced as Ricky’s mild-mannered, slightly nerdy assistant, but when Ricky is at one of his lowest points, Susan proves she may be one of the few people in Ricky’s life to truly believe in him. Of course, that message really resonates with Ricky once Susan is crawling across the table toward him like Tawny Kitaen in a White Snake video. Susan proves why Ricky is the better driver than Jean: it is not due to either driver’s backgrounds; it is because Ricky truly loves to drive. And the perfect placement of Journey’s “Faithfully” electrifies the scene as Ricky and Susan give into their attraction.
Rival Talk at Jean Girard’s House
After Ricky overcomes his fears, he goes to Jean’s house to let his rival know he is ready to compete again, and both drivers lay their true motivations on the line. There is no question both Ricky and Jean are prideful men and admit they each want a fair race that proves, once and for all, who is the better driver. Up until this point, their competition has only led to the ruin of Ricky’s life, but forcing him to press the reset button on his life may have been the best thing Jean could have done for him. Ferrell and Cohen are perfect in this scene as Jean tries to push Ricky’s comfort level and Ricky finally puts down his bravado to have an honest conversation, but does so without pretending to be someone he’s not.
Ricky and Jean literally run to the finish line, and after each man has given it his all, Ricky comes out on top. It only makes sense that two characters, and two performers, as over the top as Ricky Bobby and Jean Girard would end everything with a dramatic kiss. Jean naturally wants to continue the embrace, but Ricky knows the point has been proven, and the two have come to a mutual understanding. Their rivalry not only helped Ricky become a better and more confident driver, it helped make him a better and more accepting man. The scene is certainly played for laughs (and shock), but in the end it is promising to see a man who first seemed completely one dimensional grow both on and off the track.
What is your favorite scene from Talladega Nights: The Ballard of Ricky Bobby?