Sunday, December 23, 2007

It Hardly Walks

Billy Wilder often spoke of being serious about making comedies, applying craft, subtlety, and complexity to a form whose origins lie in the brilliant outlandish slapstick of Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Charlie Chaplin. Slapstick, however, is a silent form and in the sound era, only one man, Jacques Tati, has been able to handle slapstick with proper care, telling the outrageous with whispers and nudges. In recent years, comedies seem to have been attempting to tell slapstick stories with screams and explosions. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, the most recent effort by Jake Kasdan (a lesser member of the Apatow comedy circle) continues this same forgettable, harmless, pseudo-shock trend. The film is so insignificant, witless, and boring that I’m sure Billy Wilder wouldn’t bother to take a piss on it.

Attempting to parody the biopic genre, whose award-winning All-Star team includes films like Ray (2004) and Walk the Line (2005), Walk Hard compiles a series of immature, predictable gags that reveal nothing fresh or remotely interesting. Mocking the overabundance of drug abuse, predictable moral resolutions, and melodramatically mercurial shifts between success and the dumps is like shooting fish in a barrel and is just as useless. Once you shoot the damn fish, there isn’t much left, which is essentially the problem with Walk Hard. The film’s innumerable trite puns and jabs are so dominating and emphasized that is seems the writers (Kasdan and, sadly, Judd Apatow) forgot they were making a film and decided to create a second-rate stand-up routine.

Walk Hard lacks all of the tact and truth of Apatow’s other projects, particularly his directorial credits, The 40-Year-Old-Virgin (2005) and Knocked-Up (2007). The humor in the film is so obvious and sophomoric that it’s almost painful, particularly when a penis enters the frame, just so all of the homophobic, insecure assholes in the audience can yell, “gross!” and make comments about one another’s manhood. It’s not funny. It’s only humorous to those who see a man’s genitalia as cheap gag to be exploited for shock value. The constant flashing of breasts, penises, and various drugs becomes almost indulgent and the satire is lost completely. The restraint exemplified by great cinematic satirists such as Wilder, Ernst Lubitsch, and Luis Bunuel is markedly absent in any form from Walk Hard, which would probably have Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) jump into the audience and whack someone with a 2 x 4 if it could get a chuckle from a 15-year-old who just saw his first silver-screen boobies.

It may be unfair to compare Walk Hard to cinematic legends like Ernst Lubitsch, but with films like Knocked-Up, Apatow and his assortment of comedic minds have proven themselves capable of mature, excellent, tasteful filmmaking. Walk Hard is a serious misstep and not even the irresistible charm of John C. Reilly and Jenna Fischer (as the June Carter character, Darlene Madison) can save the film from a horrible script and limp direction. More akin to Scary Movie 3 than any other Apatow project thus far, Walk Hard forces its competent cast to drag out what should’ve been a ten-minute sketch on SNL. Because of this, the film is always reaching and grasping, without any footing. It’s a shell of a film and it’s lack of anything substantial ultimately makes it disposable.

by Brandon Colvin

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Y'all jus dont no good comady! Y'all is to higbrogh! This is knee slappn' stuff! Tis movie ain't fer thankin' its fer laughin'. Losin up!