s skippy the bush kangaroo: good, hard cox

skippy the bush kangaroo



Sunday, December 30, 2007

good, hard cox

as we discussed in our previous post, we had all but given up on the state of movie parody in the last decade or so. in our minds, naked gun (the first one) was the last movie parody worth watching. the recent crop of parodies have been simplistic, expected and puerile.

imagine our pleasure, then, to see walk hard - the dewey cox story -- judd apatow & lawrence kasdan's foray into making fun of the musical icon biopic...a very specific movie genre that has seen almost too much product as of late.

walk hard is a laugh-out-loud parody of the old school variety, like airplane! it mines most of the recent musical biopics (moslty ray and walk the line, but also great balls of fire, the buddy holly story, and everything from la bamba to the gene krupa story, with a tiny bit of i'm not there thrown in for good measure). but unlike recent parodies that simply re-create specific movie scenes with a stupid joke tacked on at the end, apatow and kasdan make fun of the entire structure and cliche universe of the genre, with hilarious results.

two great aspects that raise this flick above the usual watered-down spoofs are the spot-on costumes and art direction which convey the various decades thru the years. we have mentioned that part of doing good parody is to do it with a straight face; the pitch-perfect clothing (by debra mcguire) of the buttoned-down 50's, psychadelic 60's, funky 70's and bland 2000's were the straight face the movie presented.

also raising the parody pedigree of this film are the great songs. the musical pieces are all co-written by real song writers like marshall crenshaw, and manage to both poke fun at, and pay tribute to various rock genres. like spinal tap and the rutles, walk hard spoofs out of knowledge and affection.

john c. reilly, who sings his own songs, is perfect as dewey cox. in one of the funniest gags of the film, he plays the singer at practically every state of his life, except for when connor rayburn plays 8 year old dewey at the beginning of the movie, when he slices his brother in half in a terrible machete accident, which haunts dewey thru-out the film. dewey's father (the excellent character actor raymond j. barry) constantly reminds him that "the wrong kid died."

we first see reilly as 14 year old dewey cox, playing with his band in his high school talent show. his band mates, of course, are real 14 year old boys, and the sight of reilly standing with them, dressed like a kid is laugh out loud funny. and when the band plays, the teenagers in the audience immediately stand up and start dancing, as if the music compels them, while the adults stand up and start shouting about "devil's music."

also in this scene we meet kristen wiig, of snl fame, playing dewey's 12 year old girlfriend ("am i really your girlfriend?" "of course you're my girlfriend, i pointed at you from the stage, didn't i?") who runs away with dewey and marries him.

another great cliche that the film makes into a running gag is stilted dialogue full of exposition. chracters constantly tell each other their age in new scenes (i'm 21 years old! i've got my whole life ahead of me!"), or call each other by their full names, as if the audience couldn't guess who they are. "gee, thanks for the advice, buddy holly," cox tells a bespectacled, white jacketed frankie muniz as they stand backstage watching elvis presley (played by the white stripes' jack white) perform.

dewey, on his rise to the top, of course constantly struggles with falling prey to different temptations (including, late in the film, the real temptations as they sing "my girl"). tim meadows (another snl alum) plays dewey's drummer who introduces dewey to various and progressively harder drugs (culminating with viagra when the characters are in their 70's). the introduction to marijuana was particularly brilliant, as cox argues himself into trying it.

and in a lift right out of walk the line, temptation also comes at its most beautiful in the form of the beautiful back up singer darlene, played by jenna fischer (from the american version of "the office"). dewey falls in love and marries darlene, but unfortunately, he's still married to first wife kristen wiig. ("you can't be married to two people at the same time! it's illegal," she tells dewey, who responds "but what if, if you're famous?")

tho the title song is a direct take off of johnny cash, dewey manages to go thru every style of rock n' roll, as well as every rock cliche. reilly's best singing, in our opinion, is a wonderful orbin-esque number "life without you is no life at all." you may remember reilly's show-stopping number "mr. cellophane" in chicago. reilly is more than up to the different vocal stylings that the history of rock and roll demands.

when dewey decides to try protest rock, the movie suddenly becomes black and white, and dewey's in a press conference denigrating the press, a la cate blanchett in i'm not there. and the dylan-esque twisted metaphors he sings about are hilarious.

even funnier is when psychadelic dewey joins the beatles to meet the maharishi in india. paul rudd as john lennon is wonderfully over the top, and justin long (the "mac" guy from the pc and mac commercials) is funny as george harrison. and tho we are big jack black fans, we thought he was miscast (and rather plump) as paul mccartney.

the key to good parody, which kasdan and apatow seem to realize, is not only a wide knowledge of the devices of the genre being spoofed, but an affection for the subject as well. by the time dewey cox dies (three minutes after his performance at his lifetime achievement award presentation), we have grown quite an affection for cox.

walk hard gives us hope for parody movies again. we give it a big tails up!

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posted by skippy at 9:50 AM |

1 Comments:

The last pseudo-biopic I saw was "A Mighty Wind," a folk music spoof done by the many of the same people who did "Waiting For Guffman" and -- to my delight -- "Spinal Tap." My respect for Guest, McKean, and Shearer shot through the ceiling as I watched that film. What a smooth transition from metalheads to folkies!

I don't know if you've seen "A Mighty Wind," but if you haven't, I recommend seeing it just for the performace Eugene Levy gives. He steals the show. This has little to do with "Walk Hard," but I just thought I'd toss it out here...
commented by Blogger Jim Yeager, 6:36 AM PST  

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