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Targets of 'Walk Hard' jokes are sacred cows

COMMENTARY

January 02, 2008|Michael Sragow | Baltimore Sun

Few big-studio movies that are lavishly promoted and favorably reviewed arrive dead on arrival at the box office. But "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan's volcanically funny spoof of musical biopics like "Coal Miner's Daughter" failed to attract audiences from its first showings a week ago.

Could it be that audiences just don't want to see wiseacre moviemakers lampoon Very Important Movies?

From "Airplane!" to the "Scary Movie" series, audiences have lined up to see stupid plot conventions shot down.

But "Walk Hard" takes on Oscar bait, and it could be that movie fans resist having their illusions shattered. Apatow and Kasdan cheekily note that every popular musician's life is not an epic tale that defines American history. That doesn't square with movies like "Walk the Line."

"The Great Debaters," the tale of the nonpareil Depression-era debate team from all-black Wiley College, has a worthy subject and stalwart performances. But watching it after "Walk Hard," I couldn't help laughing at the way it turned the coach (played by Denzel Washington) into a combination Tom Joad, Frederick Douglass and Lone Ranger.

"The Great Debaters" opened Christmas and grossed more than twice what "Walk Hard" did at less than half the theaters. Apparently, hero worship is alive and well at the ticket booth.

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Michael Sragow is a film critic at the Baltimore Sun.

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