Judd Apatow is the new Hollywood golden child. Every movie he has any involvement with these days is immediately touted as being "From the people who brought you 'Knocked Up' and 'Superbad'." Which, let's face it, is a very helpful message for any movie to have since both were such successes both financially and in terms of laugh content. Unfortunately, Walk Hard does not quite live up to the same levels of hilarity those other two movies had.
Walk Hard is a pretty simple movie to describe. Essentially, writers Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan took the basic plots of "Ray" and "Walk the Line", melded them together, added jokes when necessary, and called it a day. That's not to say that the movie does not work, because on the whole, it does. Functionally, the movie works rather well and uses the fact that John C. Reilly is playing the same character from age 14 to his 70s to a humorous advantage. The problem lies in the fact that the movie is not nearly as funny as Knocked Up or Superbad.
On the positive side, the laughs are pretty consistent. Most of the jokes are relatively humorous and there are a few very funny situations in the movie. It never bored me. I was constantly curious about what sort of wacky, out of control situation they would throw out next. So in that regard, the movie succeeds. There are also numerous small roles that are meant to illustrate the time period in which Dewey Cox is currently residing in, ranging from Elvis to the Beatles which are all very funny in the ways they send up the actual musicians.
The ultimate problem is that the movie just is not funny enough. There was nothing particularly memorable in the movie, except for the fact that a few penises are shown on display for no apparent reason than for people to go "Hey look, it's a penis." There is very little reason for them to be there, but I suppose the same could be said about the naked women in the movie. Except people are going "Hey look, they're boobies." But whatever.
It's also lacking the heart that the last two Apatow movies had. Knocked Up and Superbad were not only extremely funny movies, but included characters that you truly cared about and wanted to see succeed. They were flawed individuals who were trying to make their way in the world. Dewey Cox does not have that same connection to the audience that those previous characters had. I suppose that is somewhat the point in a parody movie, but when all the marketing materials are used strictly as a way to compare the movies, one cannot help but do an actual comparison.
For what they have, all of the actors do an extremely proficient job with their material. John C. Reilly is genuinely funny as Dewey Cox and the supporting cast including Kristin Wiig as Dewey's first wife, Edith and Jenna Fischer as his second wife, the June Carter send-up, Darlene, all deliver very funny scenes. The material they have to work with is just unfortunately somewhat lacking.
Despite the negatives, Walk Hard continues Judd Apatow's dominance of comedy. Even though it does not ultimately achieve the levels of greatness, it still exists as a funny movie that is leaps and bounds above such recent drivel as "Good Luck Chuck" or "The Heartbreak Kid". Apatow has raised the bar on himself, so it's just that much more obvious when he fails to meet it, even if the movie itself is an entertaining and funny way to spend two hours. Hopefully this is just a small slip-up in a line of excellent movies to come.