Why is `Walk Hard' a dud at box office?

December 28, 2007|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,Sun Movie Critic

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 that delicious parody of airborne disaster pictures, Airplane!, to the abysmal Scary Movie spoofs of horror films, audiences have lined up to see stupid plot conventions shot down.

But Walk Hard takes on Oscar bait, not drive-in fodder, 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, and that on-the-road philandering and drug use may merely have been fun for rock and country stars, not life-altering experiences. That doesn't square with the importance that even terrific movies like Walk the Line put on each celebrity step and misstep.

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 to myself at the way it turned the debaters' coach (played by Denzel Washington) into a combination Tom Joad, Frederick Douglass and Lone Ranger.

The Great Debaters opened Christmas Day 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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