Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

14 July 2008

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, dir. Jake Kasdan (2007)

STEVE says:
There's a scene in Walk Hard where a young Dewey Cox is waiting in the wings with Buddy Holly as The Big Bopper performs Chantilly Lace. He's understandably nervous about following the Bopper, so Holly (a pointlessly cameoed Frankie Muniz) offers to go on next and take the heat, allowing Dewey to then follow. Moments later, the stage manager alerts everyone that Elvis (Jack White, for some reason) wants to get out early, so he'll be on after Holly, and Dewey will follow them all. I guess it's meant to be funny, and it was in a cute, obvious sort of way, but that's not the reason I bring it up.

See, before we watched Walk Hard, Nikki and I had just finished a 30 Rock marathon - eight or nine episodes back to back because we just couldn't turn it off - and I can't help thinking that maybe Walk Hard would have been funnier if it hadn't had to follow such a brilliantly put-together show.

Not likely, though, considering Walk Hard was co-written by "the guy who brought you Knocked Up and Superbad", Judd Apatow. The more movies I see advertised with "From the Guy Who Brought You" in relation to this guy, it seems less a selling point and more a condemnation.

I was very surprised to find that, for an Apatow movie, Walk Hard followed the proper screenplay structure, but I credit that to the other half of the writing team, director Jake Kasdan. Jake's dad, Lawrence Kasdan, is the guy responsible for writing The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Body Heat and Silverado, to name a few, and it seems some of that genius has rubbed off. Still and all, Apatow was involved here, and his vision extends about as far as Vern Troyer's dick, so instead of a hilarious take on the rock star biopic, Walk Hard ends up being a tepid spoof of only two such movies, Ray and Walk the Line - which, structurally speaking, were pretty much the same movie, anyway.

Was it funny? I gotta be honest, here... I don't remember laughing more than once, when Dewey and his band went to India and inadvertently met the Beatles. In yet another spot-the-celebrity scene, Jack Black did the worst Paul McCartney ever - with what sounded like an Irish accent - but Justin Long, Jason Schwartzman and the ever-trustworthy Paul Rudd played George, Ringo and John, respectively - and rather convincingly - as the tensions within the group began to flare.

With Apatow involved, I was expecting a poorly structured rock star cliche that drags on for longer than it has any right to - basically a rock-themed Talladega Nights - but Walk Hard, while by no means great, was nowhere near that bad. It couldn't be.


NIKKI says:
Yet another Apatow-penned film people kept telling me was just HIL-arious that turned out to be funny in spots but mostly just annoying. I wasn't annoyed at the concept or the star, what bothered me was the lazy, hack-ish presentation. It's a rip-off of Ray and Walk the Line, two similar, equally boring and unfocused TV movies that somehow made the big screen. When you're going to parody such films and you have loads of better, more influential, more powerful films at your fingertips, why go for just these two? Is it because the audience you're aiming your movie at will only know these two movies?

What about The Buddy Holly Story? La Bamba, The Doors, Coal Miner's Daughter, Sid and Nancy? On NPR, the introduction to an interview with Reilly and Kasdan says the movie takes on "old music films", but but Kasdan and Reilly admit it's not movies they ripped off but famous stories about musicians. And that might be true, but where do Dewey's 22 children fit in? Which famous rock star killed his own brother? And then his father? What are we parodying exactly? A parody of rock-star biopics and no-one dies in a plane crash?

The movie is not really a parody of biopics, but a parody of rock styles in general. Dewey emulates everyone from Bob Dylan to Mac Davis. The Dewey Cox character develops as the times developed, and his style of music shifts and changes in a way mirrored by no actual musicians. It's a series of "hey wouldn't it be funny if" moments that don't pull together.

The film bothered me because it didn't know if it wanted to be a parody or an outright send-up. The broad, often stupid humour didn't fit, and worked only to bring the film down to a slapstick-y, funless level. It's a case, I reckon, where the joke is king. Dewey doesn't really have a story of his own. He has the obvious turn out of the spotlight and eventual comeback, and he learns that family is all that matters. But so what? If you're gonna put the effort in, you should have something to say. This movie just points out that a lot of music careers were fuelled by the same things, and that deaths of family members are just so funny. And?