I have now seen the film Talledega Nights FOUR times. What does this say about me, about the film, and about the state of the union? Instead of answering those questions, here is an overview of my viewing experiences.
Before the first time: Saw the previews and actually laughed. Saw a making-of and enjoyed knowing the actors had done some behind-the-scenes roleplay at Nascar tracks. Thought the critique of redneck racing fans might do my Yankee heart good.
First time: Saw it with my son at the multiplex. It was the only film out that I thought he and I both might be able to stand. We both laughed aloud, though we found the writing of the kid characters excessive and unfunny.
Second time: Played for $2 on the campus of MTSU so dragged my hubby and my son to it again to see if Chad would enjoy it. He did. Again, we laughed aloud, and I paid particular attention to Sasha Baron Cohen’s character, his accent and facial expressions, especially. Chad and I particularly grooved on the long kiss at the end. And we both think the actress playing the wife is superb in the role.
Third time: Saw it without the sound on the airplane going to California (first trip) in early November. Enjoyed paying half-attention to the now-familiar funny bits and ignoring the rest—like moments of lousy editing (like the whole Susan character, which is fabulous in the bar scene but obviously cut out to make little sense in the rest of the film) and jokes that didn’t quite work (again, the kids and their change of character).
Fourth time: Watched it in the hotel with my brother when on the second California trip after my father died, thinking it would be good escape for me and Reid. Watching it with him made me see how stale some of the jokes were and how fluffy the critique (so interspersed as it is with cheering on the redneck). The knife in the leg scene is still hysterical, but even better in the outtakes. We also saw Anchorman when I was in CA the first time, and I opined then that Talledega Nights is better, more cohesive, more sustained critique…but after seeing it the fourth time I’m less sure. I don’t think Anchorman truly worked; it changed direction in the film several times, particularly re the purpose of the gender battle, but it had some great improv moments. When we finished with Nacho Libre and I thought it wasn’t much worse than either film (though somehow Will Ferrell is growing on me and Jack Black isn’t), well, Reid and I both decided that how funny a film is has much to do with mental state and energy. And when we watched the films, we had little energy and a seriously depressed mental state. Less so when we saw Borat on its opening weekend when things seemed stable with my dad and my brother and I were seeing a film in the theater for the first time in many, many a year. (Not that Borat, too, didn’t have its limitations, but it’s politics were much more upfront—even if rednecks can ignore them and just laugh at the foreigner jokes.)