Despite troubled production and controversy surrounding its director, Bohemian Rhapsody has been a box office success. The film and its cast garnered a lot of awards and nominations but as Oscar night draws closer, the quality of the film has been called into question.
Many critics were comparing Bohemian Rhapsody to the 2007 comedy, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, a movie that spoofed formulaic biopics about famous musicians. Writers from Rolling Stone, The Daily Herald, and Youtube videos like Honest Trailers and Patrick (H) Willems pointed out similarities between the two.
Walk Hard was written and directed by Jake Kasdan, produced by Judd Apatow, and starred John C. Reilly as fictitious musician, Dewey Cox, who is a parody of Johnny Cash and other 20th century musicians. While it was a flop at the box office, it was praised by critics. Even the late Roger Ebert liked the movie although his review fixates on a penis that appears in a scene. Walk Hard has been accused of killing the genre of musician biopics because it so effectively satirized almost every element of the genre.
Bohemian Rhapsody unironically follows the same storytelling formula that Walk Hard parodied. Just like Dewey Cox, Freddie Mercury “has to think about his entire life before he plays” at the start of his movie, and just like Dewey, Queen’s rise to fame seems almost instantaneous. Both movies have typical sex and drugs montage, both movies contain gratuitous scenes of song origins, and both movies have a band break up and make up sequence, but the real Queen did not actually break up. It has been pointed out that Bohemian Rhapsody altered facts about Queen’s story in order to better fit the typical biopic formula.
Bohemian Rhapsody is not a terrible film. It is just generic, which is a shame since Freddie Mercury was apparently a really interesting person. Considering the terrible production history of Bohemian Rhapsody, it is a miracle it turned out this good, but it is still living in the shadow of Dewey Cox. Perhaps if Walk Hard did better when it was released, the formula for musician biopics would be buried once and for all.