Thursday, January 03, 2008

New Movie Review: "Walk Hard"

Sometimes a serious genre needs to be taken down a peg or two. The Judd Apatow produced and written (but not directed) movie Walk Hard parodies the recent glut of musical biopics, in particular, Walk the Line about Johnny Cash and Ray, about Ray Charles. All the cliches are here: the troubled childhood, the descent into drugs, the rebirth, etc. The lead character of Dewey Cox is played affably by John C. Reilly, who has seemed to take a recent turn into comedy.

As typical with an Apatow movie, the real treasure is the supporting cast. It seemed like just about every person who has appeared in a movie with Apatow involved, or has known someone in an Apatow movie shows up: Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill and Jane Lynch are frequent Apatow collaborators. The newcomers include Jenna Fischer as Dewey's second wife in a role not unsimilar from her role in Blades of Glory: the innocent girl turned into a funny sexpot. Dewey's back up band is made up of solid comedic actors Tim Meadows and Chris Parnell from SAturday Night Live and Matt Bresser from Upright Citizens Brigade. And as I mentioned, there are many cameoes, from people as diverse as Frankie Muniz to Ghostface Killah. It was a real treat to see them pop up.

The movie is mostly funny, even if the jokes aren't 100% on. I found myself laughing not at the jokes themselves at times, but their setup and execution. The music itself is pretty good and authentic sounding. Only a couple of songs are out and out silly, with most of the tunes sounding like what a real singer-songwriter would write with just a little comedic twist.

The best part of the whole movie, to me at least, is the appearance of the Beatles, with Paul Rudd being John Lennon, Jack Black being Paul McCartney, Justin Long as George Harrison and Jason Schwartzman as Ringo Starr. Justin Long is spot on as Harrison, as his inpersonation seems not parodic or over-the-top, but a real attempt to speak in George's voice. Rudd's Lennon is slightly over-the-top and more of an exaggeration than Long's George, but is pretty close to the original. Schwartzman's Starr is meh, as it is more like he is doing a Liverpudlian accent, and the less to say about Black's McCartney, the better. But the scene where Cox meets The Beatles in India is pure comedic gold in terms of both mocking and embracing the Fab Four. I enjoyed it.

While Walk Hard is not the funniest movie of the year but it is entertaining and a very well made spoof if you have seen the films that inspired it. It is hearting to see a parody movie done right, especially when such dreck as Meet The Spartans seem to embrace the million-miles-a-minute style of rapid spoofing. Although the box office returns do not reflect this next statement, I believe it is true: Walk Hard is on the level of Superbad and Knocked Up in terms of solid entertainment.

3 1/2 Cox puns out of 5

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