By Leah Rozen Jason Lynch Charlotte Triggs
August 14, 2006 12:00 PM

Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Gary Cole




Like The 40-Year-Old Virgin last summer, Talladega takes a viewer pleasantly by surprise. It doesn’t have the depth of genuine feeling that Virgin had, but this smart-silly comedy about a NASCAR champion boasts a refreshingly dark heart.

Even as a toddler, Bobby (Ferrell) knows, “I wanna go fast.” As an adult, his ruthless driving makes him No. 1 on the NASCAR circuit, until a supercilious gay Frenchman (Cohen, of HBO’s Da Ali G Show) appears, sipping macchiatos and reading Camus behind the wheel and leaving Bobby in the dust. A humbled Bobby must learn what it really takes to be champ.

Celebrating all that is inane about the nexus of sports, speed and celebrity, Talladega merrily allows a talented cast to pursue any weird comic riff that strikes their fancy, including a tiff over whether to pray to the baby or adult Jesus and repeated scenes of Ferrell running stripped to his skivvies while under the delusion that he’s on fire. (PG-13)