Turns out your worst fears (by which your correspondent means, his own worst fears) were unfounded: this movie actually does have more than two jokes. While those two jokes – “‘Cox’ sounds like ‘cocks’, doesn’t it?” and “Walk the Line was overrated, pompous shit, wasn’t it?” – get their fair share of play, Walk Hard is, in fact, more than just a Hot Shots! to Walk the Line’s Top Gun.
While there’s a complement of elbow-to-the-gut referentiality, it’s fleeting. Luckily: referential humour may be the lasting influence of comedy gold from Blazing Saddles to The Simpsons, but it’s also the stock-in-trade of hacks from les freres Wayans to Meet the Spartans.
Walk Hard is on much steadier ground when its target is wide: hagiographical biopics en masse are far more skilfully lampooned than any particular pic. (Yes, Reilly-parodying-Phoenix-impersonating-Cash is that rare simulacrum that surpasses the quality of its target – but to dwell would be smug).
When a scene is obligatory the movie has the good sense to play it as such, but with class. It’s the inversion of the spoof-movie norm: bad parodies play serious lines for laughs, where Walk Hard plays sly meta-comedy like it’s serious drama. This winking respect for trope may be what qualifies it for inclusion alongside, say, Flying High! rather than consignment to the pile alongside, say, Epic Movie.
It never reaches the giddy pathos of A Mighty Wind, and in the final analysis, it’s basically a hundred-minute riff on the episode of The Simpsons where Homer had a barbershop quartet and he met George Harrison.
But to remain funny, and quotable, and not without warmth or quality showmanship, all while borrowing a premise from the show that set the high-water mark for most all of those things? A fella could do worse.
[appeared edited on Flicks]