Monday, December 31, 2007

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Lately there has been a state of career biopics of various musicians and at some point it was a virtual certainty that someone would spoof them. You just hoped the spoof would be closer to Top Secret (1984) than it was to Balls of Fury (2007).

Judd Apatow, a guy who wants to make sure you are aware of every movie he has had a hand in, was the one who took up the gauntlet and went forth to make that movie. Unfortunately, the pre-views were largely devoid of laughs. The "It's the devil's music" guy getting punched seemed to be the centerpiece of every pre-view...and I did not laugh the first time. So I almost elected not to see it. However, after a careful recount, I discovered in my Near End of Year Review, I neglected to include Eastern Promises (2007) and, with my viewing of National Treasure;Book of Secrets (2007) I had the chance to average one new movie in the theatre every week for a year. So Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007) would become the 52nd unique movie I saw in the theatre this year.

Obviously, I went in with low expectations. The pre-views looked marginal and the critics hated it. For some inexplicable reason I listened to the critics this time and waited to see this movie.

It took just a few minutes to change my mind. The first few minutes revolve around young Dewey Cox (Conner Rayburn) and his talented brother Nate (Chip Hormess). Nate plays the piano magnificently, but Dewey convinces him to play that day. Pa Cox (Raymond J. Berry) helps convince him to run along and play.

As they run out, one of the best lines of the movie is uttered. It is completely set up, believe it or not, by the pre-views. Anyone who saw the preview of Dewey singing the blues knows he cut his brother in half. So when Nate says, "Ain't nothing horrible going to happen today" it almost brought the house down.

The two kids engage in a variety of atypical kid activities...taking turns running with a bull in a pen, throwing live rattlesnakes at each other, playing chicken on a tractor versus a horse, fake sword fighting with machetes...oops. Dewey "halves" his brother.

This leads to one of the best running jokes in the movie as from time to time from here on Pa Cox will say, "The wrong kid died."

One of the best things about movies is the way they can move time. Walk Hard turns this, itself, into a joke as "14 year old Dewey Cox" is played by John C. Reilly...who is clearly NOT 14. Nor does Edith (Kristen Wiig). They deliberately do nothing to make the actors look young. Nor do the actors age.

The jokes come fast and furious, the actors take it with about the right amount of seriousness, and it only occasionally breaks the 4th wall, but when it does, it makes sense. '

It skewers a lot of musical conventions and, best of all, the songs are actually surprisingly good. It is clearly a spoof but they follow the correct path of making the music right and letting the jokes bring the laughs. This movie was much better than expected.

Also a lot cruder...and for an Apatow movie, that is saying something.

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