Movie Review: 'Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot'

John Thomas

Wrong turns often teach us the right way – sometimes quickly found and requiring only a few steps. Or, the wrong turn may be a grievous error requiring many months or even years to correct and the taking of many steps – sometimes as many as twelve. John Gallahand (Joaquin Phoenix) and his favorite buddy Dexter (Jack Black) make a near-fatal wrong turn one evening that changes their lives forever.

John’s birth-mother gave him up for adoption; at an early age one of his school teachers molested him. Both events created dark clouds under which John existed for most of his life.

One way to make the clouds go away was trough alcohol, and drink, John did. He started drinking at 13, eventually drinking more and more often. John, at the time, wrote music and considered himself a drinking musician – mostly a drinker. His pal Dexter discouraged neither activity. Late one evening hopping from one party to another, one bar to the next, the two very drunk friends piled into John’s car and drove off.

John woke up a new person, Dexter woke up with a massive hangover. The former woke up a quadriplegic the latter could walk unassisted to the nearest bar. Throughout his lengthly recovery, John did retain his noir sense of humor, interest in macabre subjects, and special way of seeing things. If anything, his dark outlook increased, which contributed greatly to his new means of expression – drawing cartoons. The Willamette Week, an alternative weekly newspaper published in Portland, Oregon, did publish his work until their readers finally failed to find enough humor in some of his work. He still had the clouds to deal with, but eventually found some relief with the help of Donnie (Jonah Hill), an AA facilitator.

The help isn’t easy for John, but by taking that one slow step at a time, he eventually reaches the 12th step and a certain salvation. This film version of John’s story is not only interesting, but at times fascinating. The genuine stunner of “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” is Joaquin’s performance. It is one of the few (if not only) times he has left his persona behind and completely become another person. That really is John Gallahand on the screen and not Joaquin playing him. Jack Black and Jonah Hill also become their characters and not film versions of themselves. This film enables the viewer to have a greater understanding of the works of John Gallahand – one may not like his cartoons any better, but at least one has an idea of from where they came.

Directed by Gus Van Sant (Credits: My Own Private River, Promised Land) this is a “should see” movie running 114 minutes.


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