Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Premise: A parody of music bio-pics. Singer-songwriter Dewey Cox rises from humble beginnings to a career in music spanning fifty years.
What Works: As a satire, Walk Hard does a nice job embracing and lampooning a wide variety of musical films including The Doors, Ray, Walk the Line, Yellow Submarine, and Dreamgirls and it’s able to stab at the pomposity and clichés of these films. Rather than cram as much contemporary pop culture as possible into ninety minutes, Walk Hard limits itself to a specific kind of film and this makes the satire much more concentrated. The film is able to capture a wide spectrum of music from country and pop to punk and disco and use the changing musical landscape to parody music and musical bio-pics throughout the past few decades. John C. Reilly is very good as Dewey Cox. He borrows from Will Ferrell’s playbook, creating a character who is a lovable idiot, and his musical performances are very impressive. Although comedy is rarely recognized by the Hollywood awards circuit, Reilly’s performance calls upon as much skill as is demanded of actors in dramatic films, and it’s a very good case for treating comedy with far more respect than it is given by mainstream critics.
What Doesn’t: Walk Hard is just not as funny as it could be. Although John C. Reilly’s performance is good and his character skewers the familiar elements of these musical films, the supporting cast is wanting. Cox encounters a lot of famous musical figures such as The Beatles and Elvis Presley, but their scenes are very flat and play as a mediocre imitation of something from Saturday Night Live. The film lacks gall; it needs a shot in the arm of the kind of audacity that makes the best satire work. Instead, Walk Hard skims the surface, unsure of how to make this material funny, and relies on toilet humor to bail itself out of scenes where the film can’t find a funny, satirical angle.
Bottom Line: Walk Hard is not This is Spinal Tap but it is better than a lot of recent parodies because it’s more focused. It’s a good film that could have been great if it had gone farther with its satire.
Episode: #178 (February 10, 2008)