January 7, 2008

A Burning Rage to Live

Walk Hard
Originally uploaded by Gordon D
Let me start with the end of this blog post: Get Up And See Walk Hard - Right Now. We'll still be here. We'll even wait.
Welcome back!

Anyway, it's surprising that this movie hasn't done better business...because it's one of the sharpest, most effective musical satires since Spinal Tap. (Or even, in more recent years, other pop culture satires like Galaxy Quest). The brainchild of Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan, this satire of the musical biopic has one major weapon up its sleeve: it is a movie that is fully aware that it is a satire.

It is tempting to view the form the movie takes as satirical - for example, the traumatic childhood loss; the rapid rise; the mediocre middle years, and triumphant comeback are all grist for the mill. (There's even an end-of-the-credits "cameo" by the "real" Dewey Cox) However, the genius of the film (driven by current fave Judd Apatow and directed by Jake Kasdan) is that, even within the film, there is a great reflexiveness. We're introduced to Reilly as Cox...playing with "fellow" fourteen year olds. At one point, Cox's wife warns him, "Don't you dare write a song while we're arguing!". But ultimately, the satire reaches its self-reflexive genius not only with Cox remarking on the famous people he's meeting, but also in the casting of key cameos (Jack Black as Paul McCartney! The Malcolm in the Middle kid as Buddy Holly! Opie's dad as a preacher!). Reilly is able to channel a good, aw-shucks attitude in making a guy who acts incredibly selfishly...seem real and likable.

Kudos also have to be given to near-triplet Jenna Fischer (born within a few days of myself and near-twin Roger) as Darlene, the rather prim young backup singer who finds herself involved with Cox. This would have been an easy role to play broadly...but even within a comedic context, there is a real sweetness and solidity to Fischer's performance. And the music in the movie - Cox's "hit parade" - also serves less as pastiche and more as solid songs. It's no wonder that, by the end of the movie, we like Cox - if the songs had shown a little less effort, the movie would have been way off the mark.

There are some missteps - for example, we get it! The father thought the wrong son died! - but other than that, this is one of the best, funniest movies to come out in a long time. It's a shame, though, that crap like Meet the Spartans is going to be a better financial success. (If you want my less-than-ten-word opinion - and/or you want to check out a cool movie blog - click here).

So please see Walk Hard. Or see it again. You'll thank me later.

Highly recommended


Roger Green said...

Tomorrow I'll post my top films of the year, with a sidebar on Walk Hard.

Nik said...

I've been sorry this bombed as movies that flop in the U.S. rarely make it to my side of the pond. I'm a big Apatow and Fischer and Reilly fan though so I'm likely to just pick it up on DVD sight unseen.