This afternoon Sony had a group of journalists come by the Burt Lancaster Theater on the studio lot to see about twenty minutes of footage from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and do a Q&A with producer Judd Apatow, director Jake Kasdan and star John C Reilly. Reilly was on his lunch break from shooting Step Brothers and couldn’t stay long (although Apatow, who is producing the film, allowed him to stay longer. ‘Who’s going to get mad at me?’ he asked. ‘Me?’ Later, Reilly wondered if he was holding up director Adam McKay and co-star Will Ferrell. Apatow said it was a power play. ‘Let’s see if McKay goes home.’). The Q&A was great, but I’m not going to try to recreate it here without a transcript (I’ll have that in a day or two, including the epic story of why the rapper who samples Walk Hard for a very filthy song is named L’il Nutsack. Instead, here are some thoughts on the footage I saw.
Walk Hard looks to be the broadest thing Apatow has been involved with since his days on The Ben Stiller Show. The movie is a parody of biopics in general and musician biopics in specific, and it looks to be in the vein of Airplane! – hilarious even if you haven’t seen the specific movies it’s spoofing. It’s a kind of humor that reminds me of the best of Mad Magazine, winking and often sarcastic. In the opening scene, a young Dewey Cox is playing with his more talented, more loved brother. ‘It’s a beautiful day, Dewey,’ the brother says. ‘Absolutely nothing horrible could happen on a day like today!’ Of course anyone who has seen a biopic knows better, and the two go on to engage in horrifyingly dangerous activities, including playing chicken with a tractor and a horse.* (That footnote leads to a spoiler)
We saw another hilarious scene, where Dewey Cox first tries weed (this could be one of the movie’s most quotable bits), and a scene when he goes to India with the Beatles. The India stuff is at once incredible – Jason Schwartzman is an unbelievably funny Ringo, and Apatow said that Justin Long walked on set already having a George Harrison impersonation – and also sort of flat. I see this being a possible problem with the film, where some of the jokes go on a little longer than they need to, in this case the Beatles referring to themselves, their songs and their legacy and legend again and again. Of course as a big Beatles fan it was a joy to see John Lennon call Paul McCartney a fat cunt.
They’re still cutting the film – Apatow said that there’s another test screening coming up – and they estimate it will come in at about 90 minutes. Kasdan says he wants the movie as short as possible, which I think makes sense with this sort of rapid-fire gag comedy. This isn’t the same kind of character comedy that Apatow has been known for, it’s much more in the vein of the Zucker Bros.
I should also mention the music. The songs that we heard were fantastic, sounding like real songs, not comedy songs… until you listened to the lyrics. It sounds like they’re going to push the title track for an Oscar nomination, which would be amazing.
I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the film in the coming weeks, and I’m psyched to bring the whole of the very funny Q&A. Check for that tomorrow or Monday.
*This is a spoiler. Do yourself a favor and don’t spoil this. My favorite line in the twenty minutes we saw happened here, after Dewey accidentally cut his brother in half with a machete. Laying in two pieces, the brother says, ‘I’m cut in half real bad, Dewey!’