A Review of “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”

I’m almost embarrassed to be posting this review, but sometimes a dumb spoof comedy is just what the doctor ordered.  When the greater world outside you seems to be going mad, and the holiday season is stressing you out, sometimes you just want to laugh for a few hours.  It’s good to laugh at ourselves…laugh hard

The Wrong Movie Bombed, 28 December 2007

When young Dewey Cox accidentally cuts his brother in half with a machete, it sets him on a long, hard, and winding road that traverses the most profoundly important moments in modern music history spanning the 1950’s to today. “Walk Hard” was erroneously advertised as yet another comedic romp from Judd Apatow. While as the co-screenwriter here many of Apatow’s trademarks can be found including the usual sophomoric sexual humor and ironic pop-culture references, “The Dewey Cox Story” is actually closer in spirit to the mocumentaries of Christopher Guest (“This is Spinal Tap!” and “Best in Show”) as channeled through the spastic colon of the “Naked Gun” films.

This is a parody played hilariously straight. The target of its mockery is so succinct and sharply pointed–the recent Oscar-winning musical biopics “Ray” and “Walk the Line”–that the film’s true comedic genius may be lost on people who didn’t really pay attention to those films or thought this would just be another “Superbad.” The film’s mimesis of its source materials is so spot-on, that it even follows their same cadence and nearly falls apart midway as it glosses over many points in history and aspects of the musician’s life while covering every cliché possible from the temptations of life on the road with drugs and groupies to bouts in rehab and bitter divorces to long dry periods that suddenly make way for life-altering inspiration.

At the center of “Walk Hard” is John C. Reilly who sings and acts his heart out to hilarious effect. A former Oscar nominee for “Chicago”, Reilly has since cut a niche for himself as the second banana to bigger comedy stars like Will Ferrell in “Talladega Nights” and for the first time gets a film to call his own. Tim Meadows is shockingly funny as the friend who ushers in Cox’s decent into drug use (his overly accentuated but still deadpan line deliveries are priceless), while Jenna Fishcher is sprite and lovely as the June Carter cutie to Cox’s Johnny Cash wannabee. Other SNL players including Kristin Wiig and Chris Parnell and Apatow alumni like Paul Rudd (as John Lennon!) and Jonah Hill pop in and out of the film amidst an onslaught of funny sight-gags and one-liners. Also in on the fun is a cavalcade of current music stars including the lead singer of the White Stipes as Elvis and Eddie Vedder as himself doing a nonsensical quasi-spiritual riff on Cox’s legacy while presenting a Lifetime Achievement Award.

The heart of “Walk Hard” is in the music. If you were to not listen so closely, you might be fooled into thinking these were actual hit songs from their respective time periods. Of course, listening to the lyrics is part of the fun. The ridiculously silly double-entendres in Cox’s duet with his honey-to-be Darlene are especially funny, while I personally found their spoof of a Bob Dylan song to be downright brilliant. Since the writers took the time to be so verbose and intricate with their nonsensical free-form versing, they allowed the bit to work on multiple levels as both an homage and a biting jab at Dylan’s alleged lyrical genius.

Utimately “Walk Hard”, in ways both monumentally stupid and unfathomably smart, proves to be almost too clever for its own good. It may have bombed in it’s first-run at the box office, but I would imagine it will eventually find its audience. In one pivotal early scene Cox begs his wife to believe in him and his dreams of becoming a successful singer. She replies something to the effect of, “Oh, baby, I do. I just believe you’re gonna fail.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, and it still has me laughing.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database

A Review of Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd”

Grim Musical OJ’s the Audience, 22 December 2007
7/10

Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

Tim Burton’s gleefully macabre adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical smash hit “Sweeney Todd” is the strangest holiday season Oscar bait to come out of Hollywood…well, ever. I’ll be the first to admit I am not a fan of film musicals as they are inherently loud and full of paper-thin characters singing and dancing their way through horribly obvious and clichéd plots. However, every so often one comes along that I thoroughly enjoy, like “Chicago” with its hot-blooded dames committing cold-blooded murder during the roaring ’20’s. Here, bloody revenge is the topic, and Victorian London the setting. The stage was set for a bizarre juxtaposition of seemingly disparate genres: the over-the-top operetta and the over-the-top horror film. On both levels, “Sweeney Todd” delights and horrifies in equal measure.

The film starts awkwardly with foggy CGI set designs and off-key singing covering a clunky exposition about a barber wrongly imprisoned (for, well, I never caught why) and looking for revenge against the judge who drove his wife to suicide (allegedly) and kidnapped his daughter. The film moves slowly until Sacha Baron Cohen (“Borat”) shows up with a gin-swilling moppet in tow (Ed Sanders as Toby, the best singing orphan this side of “Oliver!”) adding a sense of color, humor, and heart to the film’s bleeding core. Once the killings start, the set designs and gore seem to take on a life of their own as Burton paints his vision on screen with the rare wanton abandon of an auteur with final cut.

It would be unfair for me to judge the music and the songs (they were adequately lively in my humble opinion), but the acting was far better than I expected. Johnny Depp was perfectly off-kilter in the lead role. His lack of expression during the “By the Sea” fantasy sequence was priceless. Meanwhile, Helena Bonham Carter performed her third successful evolution as an actress. She was once the darling of the Merchant/Ivory costume drama, then the cult star of “Fight Club”, and now the Cockney-accented comic relief in the darkest movie musical ever made. I thought her facial expressions and timing where especially spot-on. I can’t think of another actress who has such distinct groups of rabid fans. Alan Rickman is effectively creepy in the villain role, while the two young stars playing the whatever-the-heck-his-name-is-pretty-boy and Johanna were appropriately annoying and dewy-eyed.

While the film goes through the requisite motions of an operetta, it succumbs to a fantastically grim and fitting conclusion that ultimately won over the audience. With more dark psychologically rich subtexts and better acting then you come to expect from a film musical, “Sweeney Todd” OJ’s its audience with cartoonish gore and spirited song and dance. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s bloody good fun.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database:

http://imdb.com/title/tt0408236/usercomments-86