Rocketman, the Elton John biopic came out at the beginning of the month, and it seems to be doing well. Grossing $131 million dollar worldwide against a $40 million dollar budget, it looks like the music biopic of the talented Elton John is another hit. That’s impressive when you consider the fact that it’s a movie we’ve all seen before. […]
Rocketman, the Elton John biopic came out at the beginning of the month, and it seems to be doing well. Grossing $131 million dollar worldwide against a $40 million dollar budget, it looks like the music biopic of the talented Elton John is another hit. That’s impressive when you consider the fact that it’s a movie we’ve all seen before. Sure it’s got a different title, different actors, different music and a different setting, but ultimately the movie is exactly the same as almost every other biopic released.
Rocketman, Bohemian Rhapsody, Straight out of Compton, Walk the Line, Ray, all of these movies about highly influential musicians that “changed music forever.” I love a lot of these people and their music, and their impact on music as a whole absolutely cannot be understated, however, all of these movies are told almost exactly the same. It’s the same plot line, the same problems and the same progression of events just Mad-Libbed into the movie with the different musician’s life just swapped out.
Coming from humble beginnings/a troubled childhood, followed by a discovery of their passion for music. Starting out doing things the old way followed by finding their voice and making the discovery that revolutionizes their sound and music as a whole. This catapults them to the top causing internal struggling dealing with the rock star lifestyle of sex, drug, and rock and roll before a falling out and spiraling to rock bottom. They then make the realization that they lost sight of what’s important (usually with the help of a significant other) until they make their triumphant return to stardom. Bonus points if it’s all a flashback that the character is having just before a big important concert they’re about to play.
I used really vague terms above for a very important reason. I can literally use any of the biopics I mentioned and have them hit every one of those story beats. All of them follow almost that exact same plot structure, and almost every new movie that comes out follows them like clockwork, hiding behind the new soundtrack, and recognizable faces and names. While I could spend several pages talking about how so many of these just follow the formula, the best place to see all of these points made way, WAY funnier than I ever could is with a little film called “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.“
Released in 2007 and starring John C. Reilly as the fictional Dewey Cox, the film is most directly a parody of Walk the Line (the Johnny Cash one), however, it hit every single story beat I mentioned above, only amplified to the extreme. His troubled childhood is him accidentally cutting his brother in half with a machete. Every important conversation ends with him ending it with a phrase that eventually becomes a song title. He progressively gets addicted to every drug known to man, and every era in the scene is stated matter-of-factly, straight to the camera. It hit every one of these beats and does it so well that I sometimes forget what happened in the “real movies” and what happens in this one. I’d even argue that the movie is better than the movies it’s making fun of.
The thing that makes a good spoof movie is being able to make fun of the thing but still having respect for it. Young Frankenstein and Airplane are great movies and hilarious in their own right, but also understand how the movies they’re spoofing were made and have a love of them at their center. Walk Hard has that in spades, understanding the formula in and out, and using it to poke fun at everything these biopics are doing. My personal favorite moment like this comes from the first hit Dewey writes, the titular “Walk Hard” song where he and plays the song for the first time to a producer. His band has never heard this song, but the moment he starts playing it, his band mates jump in and suddenly the song is fully fleshed out and recorded, perfectly in sync with each other. It then cuts to the song being the number one song in the county, released 15 minutes ago, and legions of fans gather around him the moment he walks out of the recording booth, where he was just writing the song. This is obviously mocking how there are montages of the musicians going from unknown to super stardom pretty much overnight, but it’s done with such perfect timing that I just laugh every single time.
Unfortunately, the film was a box office bomb, only making back $20 million on a $36 million dollar budget, despite the positive reviews it received. Since nobody saw the movie, the biopics are still following the formula and still winning awards. Most recently, Bohemian Rhapsody won a bunch of awards and made so much money it became the 6th highest grossing film of 2018, it didn’t even do much to change the formula other than having Queen as it’s soundtrack. That’s not to say that the actors and anyone involved with the production didn’t do a good job, it’s just sad that I knew how every beat of the story was gong to go before we ever got there. Because I’ve seen that movie before.
It’s called Walk Hard.
Posted by Austin Hamblen, Owner and Main writer of Endlessmonkey.com