When we’ve seen Will Ferrell run around naked, how much fun is it to see him run around in his underpants?
The disappointment of this movie is not that we don’t see enough of Will Ferrell. It’s disappointing because what we do see, we’ve seen before, and better.
Ferrell’s appeal comes from his whole-hearted cluelessness, but that needs to be placed in the context of some kind of legitimate, grown-up world. It doesn’t have to be complicated or explained in much detail, but there has to be some kind of clash. The rumor is that this movie was greenlighted based on four words: “Will Ferrell does NASCAR.” But the movie gives us no sense of NASCAR’s conventions or why it is meaningful. It isn’t that NASCAR is portrayed as foolish; it isn’t really portrayed at all. The setting might just as well be the soap box derby.
Ferrell looks tired and uninvolved and too old for this kind of role. His best friend is played by the reliable John C. Reilly but he has nothing to do but be a second Will Ferrell. When a movie relies on kids using bad language for humor, it’s running out of steam.
Ferrell plays Ricky Bobby, born in a racing car and shortly after abandoned by his substance-abusing ne’er-do-well father. These become the two forces in his life — the love of driving very fast and the need to win his father’s love and respect. He becomes a champion and then loses everything and has to find a way to win again and learn what winning really means.
All of this is just an excuse for a bunch of skits. There are some funny moments, but much of it feels tired. If this movie was in a NASCAR race, it would still be on the track long after all the other cars were back home for the night.
Parents should know that this movie has very explicit sexual references and very vulgar language for a PG-13. There are same-sex kisses. Children use extremely crude language and get away with it for most of the film. A character gives the finger. There’s a joke about feminine products and many references to genitals. Characters commit adultery. Some viewers will be offended by the way the characters talk about Jesus. Some may also be disturbed by the portrayal of the break-up of a marriage and the former spouses becoming involved with other people. A character abuses alcohol and drugs and children and adults joke about drugs. There is some comic violence, including a graphic depiction of a knife deeply embedded in a leg, and slapping children, but no one is hurt. The portrayal of the female characters is crass and somewhat misogynistic, even for a crude comedy. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of a married gay couple, but their behavior is as silly as everyone else’s.
Families who see this movie should talk about Ricky Bobby’s belief that no one would love him unless he was a winner.
Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Elf and Old School (mature material).