Do you know how if you put a hot glass in a cold sink, the glass will sometimes crack from the sudden change in temperature?

This happened to me, metaphorically speaking, last weekend. I watched two movies, one so bad it took my breath away, and one so good it brought tears to my eyes. The sudden difference in quality nearly made my head crack.

First, the Bad:

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Ostensibly a comedy, this may be the worst movie made in the 21st Century to date.

As Leonard Pinth-Garnell would have said, “Well now, that wasn’t so good, was it?”. How do I even begin to describe how bad this movie was? Let me take a shot at it.

  • I’ve had more laughs watching “Unsolved Mysteries” on A&E.
  • It wasn’t even helped by making fun of the French.
  • In earlier days, I’d have been honor bound to challenge Will Ferrell to a duel.
  • The daughter who recommended we go see it has been forever banned from picking movies for our household (I am loathe to name names, of course, but her name begins with B, and it rhymes with “daily”).
  • The projectionist tried to hang himself with the excess film stock.
  • Roger Ebert said it made “North” look like “Gone with the Wind”.
  • I was tempted to switch theaters to see “Step Up”.
  • I daydreamed about being at work.

One can’t even contend that Talladega Nights is bad art, because I feel confident in saying the movie doesn’t rise to the level of art. Art, of course, is subjective, and art, of course, is a perfectly legitimate way of making one’s living. But when it is so abundantly clear the only motivation behind the movie was to make money, with no regard to quality, truth, or reality, I don’t believe it qualifies.

Instead this was 108 minutes of product placement. It was a feature length commercial. I can imagine the meeting going something like this:

Producer: Will, we know a certain amount of people will pay to see any movie you make, because you’ve been funny in the past.

Ferrell: Right.

Producer: And we know a certain amount of people will pay to see any movie about NASCAR, because it’s the most popular sport in America.

Ferrell: Right.

Producer: So what we’re going to do is put you in a movie where you’re a stock-car driver, see? Now, we’ve been able to caclculate, with scientific, geometric logic, exactly how many people will come to this movie. We’ve had the boys at NASA crunch the numbers, and we’ve found that even if we run a blank screen for an hour and a half, enough people will come to “Talladega Nights” to make us all $40 Million apiece.

Ferrell: Sweet.

Producer: Oh, and since NASCAR is the most advertising heavy sport in existence, the product placement revenue will be worth another $10 million. Apiece.

Ferrell: Great! When do we start writing the script?

Producer: Will, you haven’t been listening to me, have you?

I can’t think of another theory that can explain this movie. The jokes weren’t funny, the vulgarity was gratuitous and over-the-top, the acting was mailed in, and, oh, did I mention . . . it wasn’t funny?

It was so bad the outtake reel before the credits was obviously staged, and though Ferrell and John C. Reilly tried to pretend they were really laughing, they were acting like they were laughing. I’m not sure if they did this because they knew as well as we did there was nothing funny about the movie, or if they were just extending the insult to our intelligence by trying to fake us out. Either way, it was an incredibly weak and lame thing to do.

The only positive thing I say about this movie is that I waited to see it at the Dollar Cinema. Had I paid nine bucks for this abomination, I don’t know if I could have mustered the strength to go on living.

Tomorrow: The exact opposite of Ricky Bobby.

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