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Walk the Line

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: B
Video/Audio/Extras: B+/A/D

Directed by: James Mangold
Written by: James Mangold and Gill Dennis
Based on the books by: Johnny Cash
Produced by: James Keach and Cathy Conrad
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin, Robert Patrick, Larry Bagby, Waylon Payne
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Skip it

A couple of days ago, I read that Don Cheadle was in talks to play jazz trumpeter Miles Davis in a possible biopic. If Cheadle decides to star in the film, expect him to get a Golden Globe and then get an Oscar nomination (and possibly a win). The reason being is that in the last two award seasons, Jamie Foxx and Joaquin Phoenix have played musical legends in a biopic. Foxx played Ray Charles in Ray and won a Golden Globe and an Oscar. Phoenix played Johnny Cash in Walk the Line and won a Golden Globe, along with an Oscar nomination (losing to Philip Seymour Hoffman's terrific turn in Capote). I don't know how I will view the Miles Davis biopic, because I had different opinions on the two films mentioned above. I thought Ray was a brilliant picture with a fascinating performance from Jamie Foxx. While I enjoyed Walk the Line, I thought it was exactly as Jon Stewart described it: "Ray with white people."

Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) grew up listening to the hymms sung by his mother (Shelby Lynne). One day in Germany, Johnny buys a guitar in a shop and decides to become a singer. His wife, Vivian (Ginnifer Goodwin) isn't too happy with his decision, but still stays with him. One day on tour, he meets his childhood idol, June Carter (Reese Witherspoon). He falls in love with her and wants to go on a tour with her. Vivian isn't happy with that idea either and takes a disliking to June. After his wife leaves him, Johnny descends into a life of drugs and the only person that can help him become clean again is June.

I know I shouldn't compare Walk the Line with Ray, but it's just so difficult. You just have to look at my plot summary to see what I'm talking about. The similarities are just astounding. Would have I liked Walk the Line better, if Ray was never made? Probably not, since it lacks a really good direction and a really good script, plus it's just so boring. The reason for this film at least getting a "B" grade are the music and the performances. I'm not a fan of country music, but Johnny Cash's songs are just some of the best songs I've heard and I can't get them out of my head, especially "Ring of Fire." After I watched the film, I listened to some samples of the real Johnny Cash singing and it is very impressive how Joaquin Phoenix imitates it. I felt his performance lacked substance when he wasn't singing, but still a really good job nonetheless. Reese Witherspoon gave an equally great performance as June Carter. Her performance was so good, I forgot she was the idiotic blond lawyer in Legally Blonde. I wouldn't give an Oscar for it, but it's still a nice performance.

Fox decides to release two different versions of Walk the Line on DVD: A one-disc version and a two-disc set. My screener was the one-disc DVD copy, so not many extras on my side. If you want to know someone's opinion on the two-disc edition, click here. The first extra is an audio commentary from director James Mangold. He explains how he got involved with the project as well as some stories from the set. It is obvious that this man is a fan of Johnny Cash. It's just too bad that his enthusiasm didn't translate into a better film. Many deleted scenes appear that would have made the film more boring if added. James Mangold provides commentaries on these scenes as well and does the usual explanation as to why they were deleted. The trailers section shows the film's theatrical trailer as well as the soundtrack spot. The DVD also opens with previews for Kingdom of Heaven and The Family Stone.

Even though, I didn't think Walk the Line was a great film, it's still worth checking out for fans of Johnny Cash and country music. I would say rent the film, but with a most likely better edition on the market right now, skip this DVD and try and see if you can borrow that one from a friend.

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