Video Vault: ‘Walk the Line’

Walk the Line
2005 – James Mangold
PG-13: 135 mins.
Vault Rating: 6

An Academy Award-nominated film that maybe didn’t belong there, “Walk the Line” is the story of country music great Johnny Cash.

I grew up in the 70’s hearing a lot of the Man in Black’s vinyl, and I can tell you I’ve always been a fan, so the movie was watchable, especially early on.

But this film has little new to offer than did any biopic of late. “Walk the Line” is basically a white “Ray,” which was a way better film of the kind. This is not to suggest that “Walk the Line” isn’t a decent film. It just goes by the numbers.

Like any film of the sort, it shows young Johnny as the son of sharecroppers in Arkansas. It then shows Johnny as the God-fearing family man, then as the budding recording star hooked on drugs, then as the recovered addict remarried and becoming legend. Ta-da.

I’m not saying Cash’s life wasn’t interesting. It was. He toured under the Sun label with Jerry Lee Lewis (biopic: “Great Balls of Fire”), Elvis (What hasn’t been done on Elvis?) and a number of other early luminaries including his second wife, June Carter, who basically saved him from himself.

But that’s where the story really starts and ends. This is the story of how June and Johnny got together. Throw in a marketable soundtrack and you’ve got one of those safe Hollywood films that makes a fortune.

The acting here is pretty good. Cash is rightly understated by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese (“I won an Oscar for this performance”) Witherspoon is spot on, but not overwhelming, as June Carter. Witherspoon is proving to be a very diverse actress, good with dialect and pretty, she’s among Vault’s favorites right now.

You know, if we’re going to keep pumping out movies about big music stars, can we at least get some variation on the theme? I’d love to see a movie covering the early years of Elton John’s career. Or how about Freddy Mercury? I mean, if we’re going to watch a biopic, why not pick up a copy of “Sid and Nancy,” which takes a cold look at Sid Vicious?

Or how about, if we’re going to go this route, let’s make up a biopic that’s more interesting. Harlan Ellison once wrote a super story called “Spider Kiss” that views the moral dilemma of the agent – I know, OK. I know. An agent having a moral dilemma would be something akin to deciding how much to spend this week on drugs as opposed to prostitutes – who is torn between making a living and supporting the amoral appetites of his budding star. Let’s give that script to David Lynch, OK?

But we’ve stopped talking about “Walk the Line” haven’t we? OK. Decent movie. Above average for sure, but it misses the cut with a Vault Rating of 6.

Hey! You’re welcome. And so are your comments. Drop us a line at and let us know: “Folsom Prison Blues” or “A Boy Named Sue.” And until we get that Elton John biopic covering the years up to, say, 11-17-70 … Enjoy!

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