Big question: To baby boomers, Johnny Cash was a toe-tappin', knee-slappin' legend. To today's youth, he was some guy who covered Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt." Can a biography of A Boy Named Johnny cross the generation gap and capture the man who made it cool to listen to music in prison?
Catch it: Joaquin Phoenix's scowl and singing voice mimic Cash tremendously, and Reese Witherspoon is a marvel: a perky, mannered delight as Cash's second wife June Carter. But a fuzzy notion of the complexity of their relationship and jagged jumps in time pop the feeling out of "Walk the Line" like a broken guitar string.
Skip it if: You were bored by "Ray." As the story of a musician enduring the death of a sibling, a failed marriage and drug abuse, "Line" is like "Ray"'s pill-popping, lovesick kid brother.
Bottom line: The film is almost a compelling tale of two lovers drawn together: June, who retreats because she thinks it's wrong, and Johnny, who advances because he knows it is. But "Walk the Line" glosses over the building blocks of love, and still fails to capture the passion of the creative process or the struggle to hit it big. James Mangold's film walks a line, indeed, and it is straight and narrow.
Bonus: Hearing gruff, porch-sitting, blue-collar country music that sparks an uncanny desire to bang a wooden spoon against a pot.
'Walk the Line'
Directed by James Mangold; screenplay by Gill Dennis and Mangold, based on Johnny Cash's autobiographies; cinematography by Phedon Papamichael; production design by David J. Bomba; music by T Bone Burnett; edited by Michael McCusker; produced by Cathy Konrad and James Keach. A Fox 2000 Pictures release; opens Friday. Running time: 2:13. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for some language, thematic material and depiction of drug dependency).
Johnny Cash - Joaquin Phoenix
June Carter - Reese Witherspoon
Vivian Cash - Ginnifer Goodwin
Ray Cash - Robert Patrick
Sam Phillips - Dallas Roberts