25 January, 2008

Word of Mouth: "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is the worst musical biography I have ever seen, even worse than Control, but it’s hilarious rather than depressing.

Following the life and times of Dewey Cox this movie parody leaves no musical biography cliché unturned and takes the piss out of the typical by the numbers predictability of these films.


It’s basic framework for the first half is the Walk the Line film which I actually quite enjoyed but I doubt I’ll be able to watch it again with a straight face. Obviously your enjoyment of Walk Hard is enhanced if you’ve seen the Cash biog but it is by no means necessary. There are universal themes like drugs, protest songs and finding fulfillment at an ashram in India. That's probably the funniest sequence as Cox meets the Beatles - with Jack Black as Macca.

It is much easier to review a bad film than a good film because with a bad film the problems are obvious while the reasons why good films work are often beyond me. But this film is perfect as a learning example as it is a good film that’s deliberately bad.


On the bad side the obvious exposition and stereotypical characters are frequently hilarious. On the good side, typical was a tiny character moment that they could have missed out but was brilliant. Consider the animal that Dewey’s brother makes him and then the animal that he buys when he’s rich. He never says that’s my favourite animal or talks about his brother making him one but it keeps the connection going between them in a subtle way.


That’s the key for me in that although it’s a comedy and a part parody of an existing film, they still made the effort to ground the characters in psychological truth with proper throughlines which makes it not only more substantial than a sketch but funnier. Comedy is truth.


Many parodies, in a desperate effort to up the gag rate, will step outside of the central conceit that’s it’s meant to be a documentary or biography. Doing that collapses the whole truth of the premise and makes it difficult to care about and this film doesn't make that mistake.

That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its fair share of cheap and easy gags in amongst the gems but none really takes you away from still believing it’s a biography. In fact even after the end-credits there’s a great bit of footage that is so true to the genre.


The ubiquitous Judd Apatow, here co-writing with the helmer Jake Kasdan, continues to be a brand-name for quality character-driven laugh out loud comedy so Walk Hard is recommended.

1 comment:

Jon Peacey said...

"It is much easier to review a bad film than a good film because with a bad film the problems are obvious while the reasons why good films work are often beyond me."

I thought I was the only one with this problem... I can now confess!

"Many parodies, in a desperate effort to up the gag rate, will step outside of the central conceit that’s it’s meant to be a documentary or biography. Doing that collapses the whole truth of the premise and makes it difficult to care about and this film doesn't make that mistake."

I tried to write a comedy at University and wanted it grounded in recognizable reality and characters... the tutors and other students decided that all comedy has to be pushed the most extreme point that they can reach with characters doing stupid and completely unbelievable things. Eventually I gave in and regretted it. Comedy is hard at the best of times... after that I haven't had much heart to try again.