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Talladega Nights, Scoop

There were times when I wondered just what I was doing, watching Adam McKay's Will Ferrell picture Talladega Nights. Cars would be whizzing by on the track, and banks of spectators would rise from their seats as one. Not my sort of thing at all. It is not possible to watch this film with an entirely ironic detachment; it's far too well-made. So if you, like me, look down your long nose at NASCAR - and, oh, boy, do I ever - then prepare for a few discomfiting moments of involuntary involvement in all the excitement.

Talladega Nights lampoons the suburban American life cycle, one in which hollow ostentation supplies a chronic hum that's interrupted from time to time by the excitement of Big Games. Certainly it would be difficult to imagine a nation more decadent, more empty-headed and aimless, than the American South portrayed here. Mediocrity is the highest level of intellectual acuity on offer, and it is a long reach from most of the principal characters. The two principals, Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) and Cal Naughton, Jr (John C Reilly) don't look bright enough to operate a can opener, and both seem destined to demonstrate that a little knowledge can be very dangerous indeed. Playing clueless guys comes easily to both actors, and neither winks once. Into their adversary-less Eden slithers a French snake, Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen). A gay French snake, who reads L'Étranger while racing. Mr Baron Cohen's French accent is wonderfully off, something worthy of the Indianapolis Academy of the French Accent.* Jane Lynch and Leslie Bibb, as Ricky Bobby's mother and (first) wife respectively, do a fine job of making the men look even dumber than they are.

But at a certain point - for me, it was when the tumbling, burning car crashes near the end were interrupted for an Applebee's commercial - one must throw up one's hands and declare that a people that spends its free time watching auto races ought not to be trusted with nuclear weapons.

With Scoop, Woody Allen continues the intriguing trend that he began in his last picture, Match Point. Match Point is a distillation of Crimes and Misdemeanors. The story is radically streamlined and sexed-up. But you're convinced that, like Judah Rosenthal in the earlier picture, Chris Wilton is going to get away with murder, and indeed he does. In Scoop, the antecedent is Manhattan Murder Mystery, and this time you know that the improbable suspect will turn out to be the bad guy. It's all rather reminiscent of the way in which Ariosto's tales were continually tweaked to provide opera libretti in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Only in this case the remakes are the work of the originator. I don't think that there's ever been anything like it, with the possible exception of Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much. The result is a delight, and quite a bit funnier than Manhattan Murder Mystery. Mr Allen has given himself some marvelous business to do as a vaudevillian magician who has to hobnob with the English country-house set. Scarlett Johansson makes herself look slightly silly every so often, with girl-sleuth frowns that show a comic potential that I should like to see tapped more widely. Hugh Jackman is suave and gorgeous as the English patrician who shrugs off his privileges with winning charm - but who, all the same, never lets you forget that he's got them. And Ian McShane plays a somewhat Peter Falk-like deceased journalist with great panache. (Mr McShane's character's plotlines are right out of Oedipus Wrecks.) Showing great wisdom and restraint, Mr Allen presents his character as Miss Johansson's father, not her boyfriend. At the film's end, all Sondra Pransky has is the likelihood of a journalism award.

* It's a little disheartening to find that, at least as of this writing, the Daily Blague is the first IAFA link at Google. Doesn't anybody care anymore about the National Lampoon Radio Hour? It was ten times funnier than SNL ever was - well, most of the time.


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I'll be looking forward to seeing this movie this week. A trailer for the movie had Ricky Bobby praying for this two sons "Walker, and Texas Ranger". Can't get much funnier than that! [Read More]


Count your self lucky here on IAFA, until now I knew it only as Internet Anonymous FTP Archives. Here are others that might pique your interest. I would have never dreamed you would view and review Talladega Nights. Breadth you have in spades, indeed. As for men being dumb, do you know why men are like hammers? They both haven't changed much in 5000 years but they're nice to have around.

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