For all the innuendo in this musical biopic parody, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is really flaccid. I haven’t heard such an intense silence from an audience while watching a film since Schindler’s List. I admit when I first walked into the film I wanted to laugh and it took me a few moments of uncertain chuckling to realize that the film really wasn’t funny, after that I genuinely laughed twice.
Walk Hard tells the story of Dewey Cox who as a young boy is forced to live out the mock lives of Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, flipping back and forth depending on whenever the writers Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan want to make fun of Ray or Walk the Line. Instead of letting the essence of the musical biopic inspire Apatow and Kasdan they follow said stories so closely the movie itself doesn’t have any legs to stand on of its own. Even though it’s meant to mock these films, we know what’s going to happen to Dewey from scene one and the creators don’t have the fore site to deal with the subject of musical biopics in a creative way. So even the bits that could have worked are mired in the fact that Walk the Line was a pretty good movie and that Ray wasn’t bad either, and we already know the stories. We’re actually subjected to a scene straight out of Walk when Cox plays for the first time a song that he’s written, the joke being in the film that it hits the charts and causes a stir within moments of it’s recording. It sounds funny, right? But somehow it’s not. How would you like to watch a remake of Walk with Jake Gyllenhaal, or Psycho but with Vince Vaughn…? Here it’s John C. Reilly being asked to act out scenes that have already been acted out by other actors. It’s not creative nor inventive in the way it approaches its material. It lacks spirit and an interest in truly skewering the films that really deserve it. It’s a lazy comedy, repeating many of the jokes over and over again.
I get the joke, really I do. And I had a difficult time placing my finger on why it didn’t make me laugh, why it didn’t make the audience laugh. And that’s a tough thing to tell someone, you’re not being funny, especially to guys that you usually find funny. Superbad and Knocked Up were hilarious, and found a heart to rest on within the constraints of some pretty raunchy humor (Cox utterly lacks that heart, that soul. Until perhaps Dewey meets his children, but it’s so late in the film nothing can save it.) So, after walking out of the theatre (after the movie was done, mind you) I thought back on all of the great parodies The Naked Gun, Airplane, Scream 2 and Spinal Tap so I could figure out what went wrong. Then I thought about all of the new ones Epic Movie, Date Movie and the forthcoming Meet the Spartans. Walk Hard unfortunately falls into the second category. It’s a comedy that tries too hard to be silly. One in which the actors play it so straight you can tell that they are in on the joke. There’s an aloofness to the characters in Spinal Tap and Airplane in which they don’t seem to know they are making fun of anything. In Walk Hard the characters move from one scene to the next merely under-over acting for the sake of doing so. How can you make fun of the performances in Walk the Line? They were great performances. What’s there to mock?
This seems to be the underlying flaw of the film. When we’re subjected to bits that should work the actors have been directed to over play their emotions to such an extent that the bits don’t feel genuine, that their emotions in these absurd moments don’t feel genuine. The great thing about Airplane is when Leslie Nielsen steps in to wish them good luck, he’s dead serious. The performance is genuine, and that’s what makes it funny. The one scene in Cox which we get a genuine reaction to what’s happening is the only laugh out loud funny scene in the movie and it’s the only time the movie breaks from the constraints of Ray and Walk the Line…
Dewey is at the point in his career when he’s making a bad television show to reach a larger audience. He sits down with an interviewer, played by a very funny Jane Lynch, who in between commercial breaks tells Dewey she’s sorry he’s on such a bad show. Obviously upsetting Dewey, this allows John C. Reilly to finally play his character straight rather than for laughs and the continuing interview is hilarious. But not enough to bring the movie back from the mire, and not enough to make poor Jenna Fisher as Cox’s June Carter, typically an actress I like, seem really unfunny. The only moment in the film she got a smile out of me is when she delivers a gift to Cox’s kid. It was also great to see so many other faces like Harold Ramis, Paul Rudd, Jason Schwartzman, Jack Black, Chris Parnell, Tim Meadows (who has a funny scene involving refer) and the list goes on. It’s too bad the material wasn’t there for them to work with.
Comedy is a tough thing to judge because everyone’s funny bone reacts to different things, but it usually helps when you have a good movie backing up the humor. Here you have that guy in the middle of a party that really wants you to laugh at him. The guy that finds himself to be far more funny than he actually is. And that’s not fun to listen to for two hours.
Oh, and the giraffe was funny. I wonder if this is the type of movie that I might appreciate more on a later viewing, much like I did Ace Ventura 2, when I’m no longer expecting something that’s well done. I guess we’ll see.