Saturday, October 18, 2008

Flashback Review! Walk Hard

Tim and I were looking for something to watch on On Demand, and he decided on Walk Hard. I kept referring to my review when we talked about it, and I thought, "Hey, I should share this on the blog." So, I dug into my archives and found the review I wrote for Critics Rant. Enjoy!

The sophomoric comedy will never die. There are great ones like Animal House. There are horrible ones like Dumb and Dumberer. And there are those that fall a bit in between. I think that’s Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. I can’t really say, though, because I’m still trying to wrap my brain around this mock biopic.

From the first moment of the movie, I thought I knew exactly what I was in store for. A stage manager runs around backstage looking for Mr. Cox. “I need Cox. Where’s Cox?” (Haha. Funny.) When he finds the singer, he’s leaning against a wall in a dark hallway ala Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line. Then Tim Meadows pops up, and in his always perfect deadpan voice says, “Dewey Cox has to think about his whole life before he performs.” I was actually surprised when there was no generic dream-blur transition.

From here, we learn the life story of Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly). Starting back when he was a little boy and accidentally killed his older, "perfect" brother Nate. At 14, Dewey plays in front of his first audience. His music is a hit with the kids but the adults think it’s the devil’s music. His father, after saying, “The wrong kid died,” (for the second but definitely not the last time) kicks 14-year-old Dewey out of the house. So Dewey, along with his 12-year-old girlfriend Edith (Kristen Wiig), move out and start a life of their own.

After having more children than anyone should (I think the final count is 22), Edith finally comes to her senses and leaves Dewey when she finds him in bed with his new wife Darlene (Jenna Fischer), whom he married just because he wanted to sleep with her.

Dewey, depressed and unlucky in love, spends time in jail and then rehab. Neither helps because he just goes right back on the drugs when he spends some time in India tripping on LSD with the Beatles.

Side note: Jack Black is the worst Paul McCartney I’ve ever seen. Even if he isn’t trying to really be Paul, it doesn’t work. On the other hand, Adam Sandburg does the most impeccable George Harrison impression I’ve ever seen. Though, really, how many George Harrison impressions have I seen? Back to the story.

So! After his LSD trip, Dewey makes some horrible music, loses Darlene and his band mates, and gives up on music all together. Eventually, when he’s 71, we come back to the present, and see him perform his farewell song.

For the most part, Walk Hard is hilarious. The songs are catchy and the best written jokes in the entire movie. Edith’s insistence that Dewey will never make it, even though he’s got hit after hit, is funny. Remembering that Wiig and Reilly are playing teenagers is hilarious.

And there’s Tim Meadows. No matter if it a great joke or a crappy one, his delivery made me laugh out loud every time.

There are some overly cheesy, on-the-nose moments that work only because of the actors. Then there are some overly cheesy, on-the-nose moments that fall so flat that I can’t believe they stayed off the cutting room floor. I have the same feelings about the jokes. It’s really OK to have a couple of running jokes through your movie, but there is such thing as overkill. Pa Cox’s (Raymond J. Barry) favorite thing to say is, “The wrong kid died,” but after about the sixth time he utters it, I’m over it. The same goes for Dewey constantly pulling sinks out of the wall. Really, it’s only funny twice.

John C. Reilly, as always, is amazing. Even when the material is sub par, he seems to make it work. Jenna Fischer blows me away. I’ve always loved her as Pam on "The Office," but I’ve never seen her like this. She plays the seemingly innocent sex kitten Darlene to a tee.

The music is wonderful. Each song is catchy and littered with innuendo or a set up for a later joke. The best song is “Let’s Duet” with Dewey and Darlene. It’s sophomoric, yes, but it’s still damn entertaining.

The cameos read like a SNL call sheet crossed with Judd Apatow’s favorites sprinkled with a little Christopher Guest regulars. Everyone from Jonah Hill to Jayne Lynch to Frankie Muniz is in this movie. So if you’ve gotten to a part where it starts to lag, play the “who is that guy” game and you can keep yourself entertained until the movie’s funny again.

Even though I enjoyed Walk Hard, my biggest complaint is that it isn’t consistent. When it’s funny, it’s friggin’ hilarious. When it’s not, I’m checking my watch.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Nick and Norah

When I come here to write a blog, I usually spend days trying to figure out what I'm going to say. I approach this as if I'm writing for a magazine or newspaper when really, I'm writing for me and a bunch of people who love movies. I know this, but I still take time to set it up and rewrite it. Once in a while, I see a movie that throws all those formalities out the window. I just sit down and start typing. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is one of those movies.

It is not the best movie I've seen this year, but it's truly the first movie this year that reminded me why I not only love watching movies, but love the whole idea of creating. It's such a simple story about the complication of love and relationships. It's little bits of every experience you've had just in settings you've never found yourself. It reminds me of all the good 80s movies that I find comfortable.

Nick (Michael Cera) is a bassist in a band who's completely hung up on his ex-girlfriend. He makes her mix CDs which she never listens to, but he keeps on trying to win her back. In an attempt to pull him out of his funk, his band mates take him out to play a gig and find his favorite band Where's Fluffy.

Norah (Kat Dennings) is the plain girl with the famous dad. Her best friend Caroline (Ari Graynor) depends on her for everything, and the pretty girl Tris (Alexis Dziena) is a complete bitch to her all the time. Little does Norah know that Tris' ex is Nick, and she's in love with his mix CDs.

This movie is about how two people with nothing in common but the love of a band find each other, lose each other, and then really find each other in one very long, very amazing night.

I think what makes this movie so comfortable and enjoyable are the lead actors. Michael Cera and Kat Dennings both play the plain kid well. You root for them, you feel for them, and you know them like they're your best friends. Oh, and they have incredible chemistry.

The supporting cast ain't too shabby either. Norah's best friend Caroline is a fall down drunk, but she provides a good majority of the comic relief. Think Penelope Ann Miller in Adventures in Babysitting. (If you haven't seen Adventures, please rent it now.)

Nick's gay bandmates, Thom (Aaron Yoo) and Dev (Rafi Gavron) are wonderful. (I have to mention that they are gay because everyone else brings it up every five minutes.) Thom and Dev are Nick's conscience, attempting to point him in the right direction and always (well, almost always) there to pull him back to himself.

With the offbeat supporting players and the down-to-earth leads, Nick and Norah is a quirky romantic story about teenagers on the cusp of adulthood crossing paths and having a crazy time doing it.

Real people don't have nights like these. Real people don't figure out the meaning of love and all that in one crazy night in New York City, but real people in the movies do. And that's why we all go see these stories play out on the big screen. Because sometimes we need to see the hyper-reality instead of the reality. Sometimes we need a feel good, comfortable, love story that's simple, sweet, and really good.