Tuesday, July 22, 2008

WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY

This week’s movie:

WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY

No one eats poop in this movie!

I find that a good indicator of the quality of a comedy is whether or not anyone ends up eating poop. In a lesser comedy, one that’s not intrinsically very funny, the film-maker will try everything in the Porky’s / American Pie / National Lampoon bag-o-tricks - even if it doesn’t fit - to try to get you to laugh. It often works because they know it will stimulate a little dangley bit on the underside of the brain that causes you to find amusement in the stupidest things - it’s a cheap shot - they don’t even have to work for it. You’ll probably laugh because you can’t help it, but you’ll immediately regret having done so - it’s not really funny when you think about it, and it gets old very fast. It’s an old trick. The old vaudevillians were always trained that when the audience wasn’t responding - do a pratfall - they have to laugh, they can’t help it. What can I say, humans laugh at stupid stuff. Why else would people tune in to television every week to watch home movies of people falling down, or getting hit in the nads with a soccer ball, or getting a pie in the face? This week’s movie, WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY, is funny from the opening scene to the very last fade-to-black. You’ll laugh, guaranteed, but those laughs will have been earned the hard way - with clever dialog and sincere adherence to the story’s premise and material.

The film is a parody of music biopics like the Johnny Cash bio, Walk the Line, and the Ray Charles bio, Ray. These films are the obvious target material for parody, but it also includes references to Jim Morrison, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, and the Beatles. I’m sure you may recognize others. But this isn’t like the Wayan’s Brothers Scary Movie kind of parody or even like the Abrahams and Zucker Airplane or Naked Gun parodies. It doesn’t use topical references and slapstick to solicit laughs. It doesn’t have to. It is true to it’s source material in that it works entirely within the context of the story, in the correct time-line. For example, it doesn’t make references to Brittany Spears or Paris Hilton during the part of the story that takes place in the 60’s. They could have - and they could have gotten big laughs by doing that. The problem with that is that ten years from now, nobody will remember Brittany Spears or Paris Hilton and so the humor will have been lost. I suppose that you could also argue that in ten years, nobody will remember ‘Walk the Line’ or the other films that are being parodied here - but that’s okay, the movie works just as well on it’s own.

Judd Apatow and Co. have been very prolific lately with hits like The 40 Year Old Virgin, Superbad, Knocked Up, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. WALK HARD is as funny as these others, but it’s a different kind of comedy. For one thing, it’s not as crude as those (this is a lie) and there’s also not much profanity (another lie), and it doesn’t have as many “adult” situations (big lie), it also doesn’t depict excessive drug use (big lie), and never once strays into the realm of bad taste (a whopper!). Okay, it’s lewd and raunchy and politically incorrect - but so what! this is an adult comedy, not intended for children. Adult comedy should not be dumbed down to please the censors or conservative “family values” groups. There are no family values in this movie - just funny bits. You can’t be afraid to laugh here - just go for it. You’ll still respect yourself in the morning.

DEWEY COX (lot’s of obvious fun made with the name) is a fictional character, but he might as well be real. He’s familiar enough to be Johnny Cash or Ray Charles (I know Ray is black - work with me here) or Bob Dylan or any other veteran of a VH1 “Behind the Music” special. It’s funny, not so much because of the jokes, but because of the familiarity. We recognize all of the traits because we’ve seen then before - we’ve grown up with them. They may be exaggerated in this film, but that just serves to underscore them more effectively. As a plus, all new songs were written for the film and are performed by the actors themselves, and you know what? They ain’t bad.

I keep saying that this movie is funny - but just how funny is it? Let me see if I can come up with some analogous levels of funny.

  1. This may seem a bit cliche, but if I said it was more fun than a barrel of monkeys, that’s saying a lot. I mean - think about it. Imagine a real barrel full of actual monkeys - how funny would that be! Let’s just downplay, for the moment, the fact that chimps eat their young. They could marmosets or macaques or how about howler monkeys - yes, a barrel of howler monkeys! Now, that’s what I call ‘funny’.
  2. I’m reminded of rotifers. Rotifers are a class of microscopic aquatic invertebrates. Despite their small size, they are the undisputed comedians of the undersea world. There’s an old rotifer joke that goes, “There are three rotifers in a row on the edge of a barnacle. The rotifer on the left spins its tentacles clockwise, drawing passing food into itself. The rotifer on the right spins its tentacles counter-clockwise. The rotifer in the middle can’t spin its tentacle either clockwise or counter-clockwise without entangling them with one of its neighbors. Instead, it repositions itself upside down and eats the barnacle. The left and right rotifers stare at their now bloated comrade and one comments - That’s what happens when you don’t exercise.” …………………………………………………………….Trust me. If you were a rotifer, you’d be rolling on the floor laughing right about now.
  3. Let’s consider a funny scenario. You are carrying a large pane of glass when you slip on a banana peel. Just at that moment, the participants of a high speed car chase intersect with you. You hit the ground and throw out your back. The cars shatter the glass showering you with pointy shards. The tires of the car grind them into your flesh. A bystander screams and accidentally overturns a produce cart, causing the fresh-cut lemons to roll in your direction, squirting fresh lemon juice into your wounds. Finally, a policeman comes up to you and hands you a citation with a heavy fine for 1) littering (broken glass), and 2) loitering. ………………………………………..okay - so maybe it wouldn’t seem that funny to you…………..
  4. If funny was a candy bar, The Jerk would be a Hershey bar with almonds. National Lampoon’s Animal House would be a Kit Kat bar. Clerks would be a Cadbury Egg (obscenely sweet). The dark comedy, American Psycho, is a Dove Extra Dark Chocolate bar. Stanley Kubrick’s, Dr. Strangelove, would be an exquisite Godiva Assortment. Any movie with Larry, the Cable Guy (I think he eats poop in most of his movies) would be practical joke chocolate - you know, the kind that looks like chocolate but is really a powerful laxative. In this context, this week’s film, WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY, is a Jaguar. I know it’s a car, but as much as I like chocolate, a Jaguar is still better than any candy bar.
  5. What is the funniest animal? Some say kittens or puppies because they make you laugh but that’s incorrect. The subtle difference is that kittens and puppies are cute, not funny. Another misconception is the Hyena, because “they’re so funny that they make themselves laugh”. The truth is, it’s not so much a laugh as a sneer. They think so highly of themselves that they constantly laughing smugly at the inferiority of others. They’re not at all funny and you just want to slap that stupid grin off their face. Dogs - you ask? No! Dogs eat poop, which means they’re trying way too hard and can’t think of anything funnier. Is it monkeys - no! Monkeys are only funny in a large group, as in “a barrel of monkeys”. A solitary monkey is rather sad and just a tad creepy. No, the funniest animals are the lemurs - heh heh, those guys……….
  6. What is the funniest country? Of course, one’s first impulse is to say “Turkey”, an unfortunate name. I mean, how can you take a country with a name like Turkey seriously? Or what about Greece (another unfortunate name)? ……and the really odd coincidence is that they’re right next to one another on the map. You would think that that would be a pretty funny part of the world, but no! Funny names do not funny countries, make. The funniest country is Madagascar. Why? Lemurs - heh heh, those guys…………………
  7. Oh, and by the way, when did clowns transition from funny into disturbing? When I was a kid, clowns were funny, period! Then slowly, over the years, they seem to be regarded more as creepy evil killers of children than the clowns I remember. I’m guilty of it too - but I don’t remember how it happened. Was it the film, Killer Klowns from Outer Space?, or was it Ronald McDonald, lackey of the evil corporate multinational mega-company, who alway struck me as someone who would eat small children if he had his way?
  8. What’s the funniest movies ever made? I suppose that’s an unfair question since everybody has a different sense of humor. But let’s suppose you think of your vote for the five funniest movies of all time. Leave a comment below and tell me what they are. Here are mine, today - if you ask me tomorrow, this list may be slightly different. In no particular order: Monty Python and the Holy Grail; Airplane; Clerks; This is Spinal Tap; Young Frankenstein; and South Park - Bigger, Longer & Uncut. Yes! Yes! I know that’s six! So sue me! SO what’s your five (or six)?
  9. SO, I almost forgot the point of #8. WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY is not on that list. It’s not one of the five (or six) funniest movies of all time - but it is the funniest movies I’ve seen so far this year - and I’ve seen quite a few.
  10. Finally, what’s the funniest category from above? Is it candy bars, or countries or animals or movies - or is it something else? Who cares? Funny is funny. Although it’s in short supply in a lot of the world, humans need comedy, we need to laugh. If we didn’t occasionally laugh ourselves silly or piss our pants and fall on the floor (heavy drinking produces the same result but is not a viable substitute), we would be sad and angry all the time until our innate urge to kill someone overcame our innate urge to just say f*** it.

WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY. Don’t pass up this really funny film - it may save someone’s life.

Enjoy


watch the trailer


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