Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

 

What was I thinking when I rented this turd? Oh yeah, that Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby might be a funny, entertaining diversion. One can’t always watch grim tales of abortion in Communist Romania or the death of a small town’s entire generation of children. I had long since tired of Will Ferrell, once a treasure on the Saturday Night Live cast, but long since devolved into a movie factory that produces mostly crassness for crassness’ sake. But I had heard Talladega Nights also featured good turns from Molly Shannon, Amy Adams, and Sasha Baron Cohen, and I had also recently enjoyed John C. Reilly in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (read The Dork Report review). All fail to amuse here.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky BobbyI tried and failed to find a still from the movie including Amy Adams, so you’ll have to settle for line dancing

The ensemble obviously improvised whole chunks of the movie, but not really to its benefit. I counted only two bits that made me laugh: Bobby extemporizes the commercial endorsement “If you don’t chew Big Red, *BLEEP* you!” (a line so aggressively stupid I laughed on impulse), and later, his poncy French rival Jean Girard (Cohen) reveals his corporate sponsor, Perrier. These two gags should make it clear that although Talledega Nights is not the first comedy to parody extreme product placement, it does drive it to a heretofore unexplored new level of absurdity. Finally, it dispenses with its relative subtleties altogether and simply cuts to an actual Applebee’s commercial.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky BobbyBorat meets Bubba

Official movie site: www.sonypictures.com/movies/talladeganights

Buy the DVD from Amazon and kick back a few pennies to The Dork Report.

Year of the Dog

Year of the Dog movie poster

 

The Netflix queue is, by its nature, the opposite of the instant gratification of a rental store. You add movies you think you might want to see some day, then sit back and wait for them to arrive in an order decided by computer, according to factors and algorithms outside of your control. Enough time had passed since I added Year of the Dog that I could no longer recall why. Possibly I read a good review somewhere, or maybe I was curious about the sudden reappearance of Molly Shannon (part of “my” Saturday Night Live of the mid-90s — am I right that people feel the most affection for the SNL cast of their college years?). But I feel baited and switched; this is not a drama or romantic comedy but rather a movie with an agenda.

Writer/director Mike White’s Year of the Dog is a feature-length dramatization of Janeane Garofalo’s gag “You can love your pets, but you can’t love your pets.” Not unlike Lily in the recent Dork Report screening of Eagle Vs. Shark, Peggy (Shannon) is a gentle sweetheart, but alienated and lonely. Her relationship with brother Pier (Thomas McCarthy from The Wire Season 5) and sister-in-law Bret (Laura Dern) is distant at best, and her closest friends are oblivious workmates.

Molly Shannon in Year of the DogThis commute’s a bitch

When she loses the unconditional love of her dog Pencil, she becomes hungry for, as she puts it, a single word to define her. On a date with Al (John C. Reilly), Peggy demonstrates a dislike of hunting, the seed from which her new fervor for an animal activist lifestyle grows. Her one word, she decides, is to be “vegan.”

Her new life teases her at first with the possibility of love with Newt (Peter Sarsgaard), but he is too much like her, or what she is soon to become: unable to love humans nearly as much as animals. From here, the tone shifts to the disturbing, as Peggy causes her life to fall apart. Her clumsy activism costs her her job and family, and she soon descends to theft and attempted murder.

Molly Shannon in Year of the DogYou can love your pets, but you can’t love your pets

And yet, the movie appears to present her ultimate state as a happy ending of sorts. She chooses to be friendless and unloved, but has found meaning and purpose. The most important part of the movie is missing: what happens between Peggy hitting rock bottom (where she becomes unable to function in society) and her total ascendance as a self-assured being? I don’t buy the sudden switcheroo that it’s all OK because she has discovered herself.

Would real-life animal activists find Peggy and Newt amusingly exaggerated versions of themselves, or insulting stereotypes? Speaking as the owner of two rescued casts, it strikes me that choosing the love of animals over that of people is a kind of mental illness that begs for correction, not celebration.


Official movie site: www.yearofthedogmovie.com

Buy the DVD from Amazon and kick back a few pennies to me.