Total Recall

Total Recall: Walk Hard While My Biopic Gently Weeps

Opening acts: This is Spinal Tap, Fear of a Black Hat, Sweet and Lowdown

by | December 19, 2007 | Comments

On Friday, you’ll finally be able to see
John C. Reilly
take center stage. He’ll be playing Dewey Cox in
Walk Hard
percent on the Tomatometer), an absurdist spoof
on troubled musicians and the Hollywood biopics that their life stories spawn,
and for this week’s Total Recall, RT takes a look at some of the memorable
fictional troubadours that have crooned the silver screen.

It doesn’t take a Grammy winner to see why actors are drawn
to biopics. Good actors make a living playing made-up characters, but it
takes a great one to convince a crowd of millions that they can emulate the
mannerisms, speech patterns, and attitude of a musical legend. Plus, said great
actor gets to sing, play an instrument, go through a "dark period,"
and then
get saved or die a gnarly death. Pull all of this off and critics will dish out the
praise. There might even be a gold statuette waiting in the wings come February. Gee,
all that attention wouldn’t go to an actor’s head, would it?

Walk Hard: Meet the Beatles.

While acting calisthenics and musical artist movies go hand
in hand, spoof humor enters the equation just as easily. We can mention films
and groups like
A Hard Day’s
(100 percent),
The Rutles
(88 percent), and The Monkees,
but let’s jump forward to 1984. The year’s headliner: the loudest (and funniest)
band in the world, Spinal Tap!

It’s hard to overstate the impact of
This is Spinal
(96 percent) on both cinema and pop music. Though it wasn’t the first mockumentary, Spinal Tap was such a perfect embodiment of the form that
the fake doc became a subgenre onto itself. Then there’s the sheer accuracy of
the whole thing; Spinal Tap was so merciless and informed as a send-up of
the rock universe that, according to This is Spinal Tap: The Official
, rock stars like Sting, Yes’ Jon Anderson, and Guns ‘n’ Roses’
Slash have all commented on the starling resemblance to their experiences. (It’s
also rumored that Steven Tyler and Eddie Van Halen didn’t get that Tap
was supposed to be a comedy.)

Spinal Tap is the story of a witless, second-string
British hard rock band (played by
Michael McKean,
Christopher Guest, and
) in the midst of a sharp decline. A tour to promote their latest album,
Smell the Glove, has hit a number of snags, including low ticket sales,
concerns that their new album cover is sexist (not sexy!), internal tensions,
malfunctioning and/or poorly designed stage props, and the fact the band’s
drummers consistently die under bizarre circumstances. Director
Rob Reiner also
stars as a filmmaker shooting a documentary about the band; in interviews, he
gleans profound insight into why the band’s amps go up to 11, and how much more
black one of their album covers can be. (The answer is none. None more black.)

Spinal Tap: Stonehenge — No one knows who they were…or what they were doing.

Perhaps the most undervalued aspect of the film is that
Spinal Tap’s songs are good. Gleefully stupid, filled with profane double
entendres, such cuts as "Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight," "Big Bottom," and
"Heavy Duty" may not be in the same league as AC/DC, but they’re far more
entertaining — and tuneful — than your average Whitesnake record. "It stays so
wickedly close to the subject that it is very nearly indistinguishable from the
real thing," wrote Janet Maslin in the New York Times.

What Spinal Tap did for the world of hard rock,
of a Black Hat
(85 percent) attempted to do for hip hop. This unjustly
underrated 1994 satire follows a tumultuous year in the life of N.W.H. (N—- With
Hats), a group that melds Public Enemy’s radical politics with the 2 Live Crew’s
smutty rhymes. N.W.H. consists of rappers Ice Cold (Rusty Cundieff, who also
directed) and Tasty Taste (Larry B. Scott) and DJ Tone Def (Mark Christopher
), all of whom spout pretentious banalities and wildly un-PC vulgarities
(often in the same sentence) to documentarian Nina Blackburn (Kasi Lemmons).
(When asked why their song "Kill Whitey" is not racist, Ice Cold responds
incredulously that the group was referring to a specific person: their former
manager, whose first name is Whitey.)

In addition, the film features hilarious parodies of
classic rap videos (send-ups of C&C Music Factory-style hip-house and PM Dawn’s
hippie-rap are especially devastating) and some sublimely silly moments
(especially a scene in which a "Rap Against Violence" presentation to an
elementary school class quickly devolves into a brawl between N.W.H. and a rival
crew). Some of the jokes are a bit dated, while others (as when the group gets
lost backstage, or the fact that the group’s managers are constantly being
killed) are almost direct rips from Spinal Tap. But anyone who loves
rap’s golden age will find a lot of big laughs here. And even some of the
throwaway gags — Tasty Taste has a necklace with a bowling trophy on the end;
one of the groups on tour with N.W.H. is an all-female ensemble called Parsley,
Sage, Rosemary ‘n’ Thyme — are at least good for a chuckle. "It’s sad that this
film has been relegated to cult oddity status," wrote Mike Bracken of Mike
Bracken’s Horror Films
. "If you like rap music, biting satire, or are just
looking for something different, check this out."

Fear of a Black Hat: Rappers Against Violence.

Woody Allen‘s career from the mid-1990s up until his
breathtaking comeback,
Match Point
percent), is frequently considered a morass of light
comedies and experimental failures. Some deserve their reputation (Hollywood
[47 percent],

[39 percent]) and some are actually overrated (Deconstructing Harry), but
there’s treasures nestled here that recall Allen’s ’80s output and hinted at
the tenuous upswing he’s currently on. Case in point:
Sweet and Lowdown
(78 percent), Allen’s
1999 tender biopic of fictional guitarist and all-around bastard, Emmett Ray.
 Sean Penn earned an Oscar nomination for his role as
motormouth Ray, and
Samantha Morton, as Hattie, earned her first nomination as Ray’s mute love
interest. A low-key comedy with some gut-wrenchingly dramatic moments and
delectable jazz tunes, Sweet and Lowdown has been called "undeniably pleasant.
[Morton’s] performance is like nothing I’ve seen in recent years." (Stephanie Zacharek, Salon.)

Most artists pay respects to the masters in subtle homages.
Woody Allen, on the other hand, wears his inspirations on his sleeve. One
doesn’t have to look further than Isaac Davis rattling off his favorite things
in the world into a tape recorder in
percent), or the color recreations of
skits in
Everyone Says I Love You

(82 percent) for evidence. Sweet and Lowdown is
quick to call Emmett Ray "the second greatest guitar player in the world" — a
droll joke and direct reference to guitar maestro Django Reinhardt. Ray passes
out during a chance encounter with Reinhardt and several facets of Ray’s
behavior — he’s reckless, a gambler, and has just as much luck as he does
talent — mimics Reinhardt’s. But it could be said those are common strains in
any musician’s life. After all, moral disintegration makes for great idols.

Sweet and Lowdown: You have underwear and socks to wash.

If you can’t get your fix from these fictional musical biopics, there are a number of other notables sure to tickle your funnybone and
tap your feet. There’s the Beatles-skewering mockumentary The Rutles: All You
Need is Cash
(88 percent), featuring cameos from
George Harrison,
Mick Jagger,
Paul Simon, and
Bill Murray.
Tom Hanks‘ sweet, energetic
That Thing
You Do!
(91 percent) tells the
story of a fictional Beatle-esque band’s brief moment in the sun.
Chris Rock
lampoons gangsta rap in CB4 (63 percent), and the
Roger Ebert-penned,
Russ Meyer-helmed
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
(62 percent) is the
X-rated tale of the trials and tribulations of an all female rock band. Rock on!

Tag Cloud

james bond screen actors guild spy thriller Trophy Talk DC streaming service Chernobyl christmas movies Best Picture slashers adenture Musical Dark Horse Comics streaming movies cooking biopic screenings french debate MGM archives deadpool Pride Month reviews WGN directors The Academy dreamworks obituary HFPA President First Look Mudbound witnail rt labs nfl Country films legend politics Photos name the review Action spider-verse sequels Cannes stoner Mystery ABC Signature indiana jones die hard Lifetime Christmas movies The Arrangement Tomatazos vampires 007 feel good SDCC Image Comics nbcuniversal fast and furious Esquire TLC Amazon Prime Ghostbusters 72 Emmy Awards heist movie Arrowverse FX quibi Classic Film Disney streaming service Emmy Nominations A24 rotten movies we love facebook Broadway Rom-Com black diversity travel Stephen King space Comedy blockbusters telelvision Teen godzilla high school ID Mary Poppins Returns Red Carpet Ellie Kemper IFC Films GIFs rom-coms suspense Netflix science fiction rt labs critics edition Academy Awards remakes game show Sundance Now Sony 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Indigenous Oscars scene in color series The Walt Disney Company video on demand boxoffice slasher laika TV movies Comic Book CMT Black History Month BBC America Tokyo Olympics CBS All Access Star Trek Peacock Holidays Freeform Sci-Fi satire cancelled television Calendar Holiday Focus Features fresh LGBTQ based on movie scary movies Schedule HBO Go breaking bad GLAAD Nickelodeon police drama free movies all-time tv talk aapi TCA 2017 DC Universe black comedy batman obi wan game of thrones Prime Video interviews 79th Golden Globes Awards Emmys Television Academy Paramount FX on Hulu summer TV 2021 japanese docuseries mutant Tumblr Crackle Warner Bros. harry potter Quiz Trailer Netflix Christmas movies ITV pirates of the caribbean Hear Us Out Music Instagram Live finale toy story 2017 mission: impossible Columbia Pictures what to watch cartoon Lucasfilm 2016 Year in Review asian-american Elton John Travel Channel australia Superheroe LGBT ABC Family independent canceled TV shows historical drama aliens Rock period drama ESPN mockumentary crime thriller scorecard award winner hollywood History 93rd Oscars binge TCM WarnerMedia cops Hollywood Foreign Press Association Pirates 90s popular TCA hist rotten Writers Guild of America Comic-Con@Home 2021 Polls and Games hispanic heritage month SundanceTV indie Paramount Network new zealand cats 1990s women DC Comics Comedy Central critic resources MCU Funimation lord of the rings jamie lee curtis BET Baby Yoda spider-man sag awards Pacific Islander universal monsters DGA Britbox AMC Plus festival Shondaland comic book movie kids scary marvel cinematic universe YouTube Discovery Channel Summer social media 71st Emmy Awards Turner Best Actress singing competition casting anime adaptation First Reviews japan TCA Winter 2020 Drama TNT streaming Fantasy Sneak Peek GoT a nightmare on elm street NBC critics Reality 4/20 true crime YA RT History television TV docudrama USA new york Anna Paquin zombie Tags: Comedy live event YouTube Premium hispanic medical drama dragons chucky action-comedy National Geographic emmy awards 2015 anthology boxing joker romantic comedy Amazon Prime Video Certified Fresh robots The Purge Tarantino IFC toronto Endgame The Witch spain king arthur Brie Larson Spring TV Logo vs. Paramount Pictures international Grammys target Super Bowl Legendary concert Animation monster movies halloween ViacomCBS TV One rt archives Pop TV San Diego Comic-Con Character Guide VICE Disney Plus war series unscripted Watching Series YouTube Red Thanksgiving Showtime Neflix thriller Video Games USA Network Captain marvel South by Southwest Film Festival worst movies Cartoon Network Heroines Alien dceu Star Wars Marathons Starz royal family summer preview sequel PaleyFest Opinion basketball The Walking Dead Disney E3 TV Land Horror dc Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt cars HBO Max spanish Election prank Black Mirror justice league sopranos Pop Premiere Dates Masterpiece zombies TBS ratings Set visit sports Nat Geo CNN Pixar Vudu venice dogs OneApp CBS cinemax Best and Worst Kids & Family The CW leaderboard Crunchyroll Countdown Marvel Studios Sony Pictures FXX golden globe awards best cancelled TV shows Universal Pictures discovery superhero wonder woman Extras adventure Mindy Kaling VOD talk show Women's History Month Marvel Television know your critic Film Festival 94th Oscars Fox Searchlight political drama streamig new star wars movies Spike strong female leads Martial Arts superman comedies CW Seed Awards Tour Christmas ghosts Bravo Podcast mcc 2018 dexter MTV saw supernatural scene in color Walt Disney Pictures stop motion crime drama MSNBC BBC One franchise serial killer Apple TV Plus comic Fox News renewed TV shows APB Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Interview technology marvel comics Superheroes sitcom Infographic Pet Sematary halloween tv psycho cancelled TV series Amazon Studios mob young adult Fargo Geeked Week 20th Century Fox werewolf American Society of Cinematographers parents dark reboot latino Western Sundance broadcast trailers movies twilight worst ABC Amazon Musicals Ovation news genre blockbuster New York Comic Con 2019 Native theme song natural history doctor who biography Box Office Apple PBS Best Director festivals BET Awards Epix Star Wars Celebration Rocketman Cosplay dramedy IMDb TV posters teaser FOX Marvel Creative Arts Emmys Biopics TV renewals 73rd Emmy Awards canceled Paramount Plus transformers Wes Anderson stand-up comedy Song of Ice and Fire blaxploitation 45 psychological thriller movie spanish language NYCC spinoff Syfy hidden camera romance child's play summer TV preview Trivia Awards Spectrum Originals PlayStation 21st Century Fox SXSW 2022 DirecTV Lionsgate Adult Swim elevated horror Exclusive Video El Rey 2020 football Turner Classic Movies TIFF target scene in color TruTV criterion Mary poppins cancelled art house disaster Rocky NBA E! versus revenge Comics on TV nature cults crossover crime Acorn TV X-Men zero dark thirty AMC miniseries Oscar Lifetime Hallmark Christmas movies Valentine's Day Winners trophy gangster Sundance TV Reality Competition 99% Avengers Disney+ Disney Plus book adaptation scene in color film series Best Actor Nominations Toys live action video animated composers Binge Guide golden globes Family Food Network Tubi king kong Disney Channel HBO south america Shudder comic book movies foreign book BAFTA TCA Awards Apple TV+ documentaries Universal A&E comics green book See It Skip It olympics children's TV Film richard e. Grant Hallmark Hulu BBC comic books documentary SXSW Television Critics Association Winter TV italian classics 24 frames VH1 razzies jurassic park kaiju kong Mary Tyler Moore OWN Fall TV comiccon RT21