Walk Hard and Judd Apatow laziness
I saw John C. Reilly’s amazing performance in Walk Hard last night. The movie, I probably don’t need to tell anybody, is hilarious, full of unexpected jokes and dead-on parodies.
There was one scene in the movie that bothered me, though. Dewey and his band go to India and get turned on to acid by the Beatles. They are sitting at the feet of the Maharishi with Ringo (Jason Schwartzman), George (ably played by the usually unsufferable Mac ad guy Justin Long) Paul (Jack Black) and John (Paul Rudd). Schwartzman and Long were good, seeming to keep to the script and maintaining the tone of the rest of the movie.
Jack Black and Paul Rudd, however, were not good. The only joke that they even attempted was ‘Look how bad we are at playing the Beatles.’ They switched accents at will, overenunciated while staring at the camera, and generally ‘improvized’. It ended in them fighting, which went on too long and wasn’t funny, as two guys wailing on each other rarely is.
To me it was a single instance of the laziness in a movie that otherwise eschewed turning the camera on a bunch of well known actors and letting them vamp. I’m talking about Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, Owen Wilson, Fred Claus, Talladega Nights, and The Wedding Crashers. These movies are the Spies Like Us or Fletch of our times. Ten years down the line a new generation of kids will encounter these movies on cable and wonder what we were thinking when we once paid to see these mediocre, self-indulgent movies that couldn’t stand on their own without the reputation of those involved. We’re talking about the late period for a lot of these guys, when they coast by on accumulated good will. When we laugh at Jack Black now a large portion of each laugh is directed at things he’s done years ago. We’re not laughing at a funny performance by a guy named Will Ferrell these days, we’re laughing at “Will Ferrell”.
By the way, I wonder whether Ben Stiller will be the Dan Aykroyd of our time or the Chevy Chase of our time.
Just to be clear, I loved the rest of the stunt casting in Walk Hard. Jack White is great as Elvis, the other celebrities of bygone era, which I won’t spoil for you, were equally good, working on multiple levels, as stunt casting, as a parody of stunt casting, as a joke about the difficulty of having actors who don’t look like the real people they’re playing, and as performances in their own right. But what Jack Black and Paul Rudd do in this movie is take us out of a movie that is otherwise executed as a dead-on parody and remind us that Hollywood comedy is currently in the grips of a cadre of aging comic actors who find each other hilarious.
Contrary to Walk Hard’s assertion, the entertainment industry is not controlled by the Jews. It is controlled by the complacent. This movie is director Jake Kasdan’s fourth. You may have heard of Orange County, but perhaps not of Zero Effect and The TV Set. Unlike Judd Apatow, who makes movies the way people put together barbecues, Kasdan is a real movie director. Orange County starred Jack Black, but Kasdan somehow resisted the temptation to just turn the camera on him and let’er rip. It seemed to me like Apatow was drinking Sam Adams Summer Ale by the pool with Rudd and Black when they came up with their hilarious bit. “It’s hilarious! We don’t look a damn thing like John and Paul!” Apatow picks up the phone and calls Kasdan, who’s busy scouting locations or something.
Apatow: Hey, Jake, I’m here with Jack and Pauly Rudd, we’ve got the best idea for Hard. What if Jack and Pauly play John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and they look nothing like them and can’t do the accent and keep looking at the camera and just go off.
Kasdan: . . . Um, OK, let’s make some time to get together next week and write it up and—
Apatow: Not necessary, Kazzman Caruthers. You’ve got sideburns and fringed vests, right, and wigs?
Kasdan: . . . Yes, but—
Apatow: Sweet. Take it sleazy, Jake and the Fat Man.
I’d be willing to bet that Jake Kasdan was sitting in the editing booth throughout the whole editing process making sure as few lazy adlibs as possible made it into the movie. But nobody cuts Jack Black out of a movie, no matter what he’s doing.
That said, go see the movie, and enjoy.