NASCAR is a uniquely American phenomenon, which would go a long way to explaining why Adam McKay and Will Ferrell‘s Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby would prove to be a huge success after earning $163 million at the box office, even though less than 10% of that total came from markets outside the United States.
On paper, the raucous comedy should have really performed much better internationally, even if the premise would go over the heads of many audiences. Not only was it the director and star’s first collaboration since cult classic Anchorman a couple of years previously, but Ferrell had ascended to become one of Hollywood’s premiere comic stars thanks to the success of Old School, Elf, Starsky & Hutch and Wedding Crashers.
Then there’s the absolutely stacked supporting cast that included John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Michael Clarke Duncan, Amy Adams and more. Talladega Nights often tends to get overlooked when discussing the great studio comedies of the last fifteen years or so, but even if you don’t know a thing about NASCAR, there’s still plenty of laughs to be derived from the absurdity on display.
Over the Fourth of July weekend, the movie has risen up the Netflix most-watched list, to the extent that it ranked as the sixth most-watched title in the United States as recently as of yesterday. It’s a tricky balancing act for any comedy to poke fun at its subject while still paying it respect to the craft, but Talladega Nights straddles that line in regards to NASCAR with consummate ease. McKay also proved surprisingly adept at helming the exciting race sequences, which had to deliver when he didn’t have his leading man’s manic charisma dominating the frame.