Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Opens at Metro and others, Fri., Aug. 4. Rated PG-13. 105 minutes.

This might as well be titled A Day at the Races. Like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, with which the latest Adam McKay–Will Ferrell collaboration shares its essential plot of a celebrity humiliated and redeemed and an obsession with Ferrell's pale paunch, the writer-director and star offer just enough story to justify this being labeled narrative. But the tale of Ricky Bobby (Ferrell, of course), an abandoned kid who grows up to be a famous NASCAR driver despite being offered useless fortune-cookie advice by his stoner-speedster dad, is beside the point. It's just the watered-down glue that keeps the movie from playing like a series of sketches in which grown-ass men do dumb-ass-kid stuff for nearly two hours. There are two kinds of scenes in Talladega Nights: the short ones that advance the story line, and the prolonged sequences in which Ferrell and/or John C. Reilly (as Ricky's best friend, the whitest-trash Cal Naughton Jr.) and/or Sacha Baron Cohen (as Ricky's rival, French fancyboy Jean Girard) make shit up and crack one another up and stop cameras and start all over again. There's no difference between the movies and the end-credit outtakes in these movies. ROBERT WILONSKY E

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