So I read a statistical that claims 1 in 3 Americans are NASCAR fans, that equates to over 100 million people. Are we to believe that a full third of the American population does not deserve the making of a true quality NASCAR Movie? Now when I say true, what I mean is a movie that reflects the reality of the sport, not fantasy. Great stories have drama, suspense, anticipation, characters, a beginning and an end. Can anyone argue that all of these elements are not part of every NASCAR race? All 36 of them! And this does not even consider the story lines that build from the first race at Daytona to the final race at Miami / Homestead.
Over the years, Hollywood has tried in vane to create the definitive NASCAR movie (Red Line 7000, Stroker Ace and The Last American Hero to mention a few). So far, only "Days of Thunder" in my opinion even registers. To quantify my measurement system on a 1 to 10 scale (with 10 being the highest), "Days of Thunder" is a definite 1. Yes I agree it is good entertainment and has some big names, but the actual racing and apprenticing skills are all Hollywood. By this scale, name any other NASCAR movie you've ever seen and it would rate in the negative numbers. I'm saying they do not even qualify for a rating, clearly, nobody has hit the bulls eye as far as NASCAR Movies go.
This brings me to the reason I started writing this article today. "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby". This is like rubbing salt into an open wound. Yes, I totally get that this is a comedy about a fictitious NASCAR driver; it has to be, Will Ferrell "stars" in and co-wrote the story. In the new book; The Un-Official NASCAR Fan Guide this movie is referred to by its working title; High, Wide and Handsome, an equally stupid name. I can not help but feel that movies like this make NASCAR, its stars and fans look dumb. Quite frankly, I'm surprised NASCAR approved this film after making huge efforts to broad its fan base into areas other than the American South East.
Having not seen the movie yet, I can only guess that it pokes fun at the sport, it's Southern heritage, red neck, beer drinking fans and a few choice names (the lead character played by Ferrell goes by the name of Ricky Bobby, need I say more?). Somebody needs to put the front bumper to Ferrell, wake him up and inform him it's 2006. I'm also pretty sure that Ferrell's character will be an egotistical, self serving, self centered creep. This is not really a stretch; he plays the same character in almost every movie he's made, maybe he's not even acting! For those of you new-to-the-sport, here's a little inside scoop, real NASCAR drivers and the entire NASCAR "family" are all very generous and caring people, the polar opposite to Ricky Bobby. NASCAR drivers and their families support financially, countless charities and charity events. Many drivers (Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kyle Petty) even have their own charity foundations.
In the movie Ricky and his best friend Cal Naughton Jr. (they just had to get a Junior in there) apparently gang up against the French rookie (Ricky's teammate) to win races and presumably the championship. Again this makes me wonder, is this a message NASCAR wanted to send when they waved the green flag to make this movie? I'm not sure, but does not this border on discrimination? I was under the impression NASCAR had a diversity program in place to attract people from everywhere and from all walks of life. In recent years NASCAR has had woman, Japanese, Canadians, Mexicans and African American drivers. So why allow this into the movie? Does NASCAR think this is good comedy? Or, is NASCAR trying to make a political statement, because Americans are dissatisfied with the way France has connected itself in regards to the war in Iraq?
Another thing that confuses me; is NASCAR suggesting that mounting up on your opponent by taking them out of the race is okay? If this movie really represents NASCAR, the boys will be hauled into the big white NASCAR trailer after the race, where fines and suspensions will be handed out. Not!
My last issue with this movie is its name. "Talladega Nights". Is this supposed to be a variation of the movie entitled "Boogie Nights"? If you've seen that movie, you know it's not what you could call a family type movie. But is not NASCAR meant to be a family sport? Did NASCAR want this kind of association? NASCAR fines drivers for using fowl language during team radio communication if the networks happened to catch it during a broadcast. So why would NASCAR allow their sport to be loosely associated with a movie that borders on pornography? The decision makers should have stayed with the original name! At the very least, an official should be madly waving a stop sign at the exit of pit road!
Do not get me wrong people, I'm not without humor. I like a good comedy movie as much as the next guy. This really stems from the fact that NASCAR is important to my family and myself. Maybe I'm over reacting or over sensitive, or just being protective of a sport I love?
Finally, let me say this; there have been some great movies made about almost every sport known to man (Remember the Titans, Field of Dreams, Chariots of Fire, Hoosiers, Bend it Like Beckham, Raging Bull, Grand Prix and this is just scratching the surface). Those movies were memorable, well written, had "real" stars, they were dramatic, intense, and successful at the box office. So why is it with all the writing, acting and production talent in Hollywood, we still do not have a great NASCAR movie? Are 100 million NASCAR fans not describing a movie in the same league as those others?