It is December 20, 2007, the day before the release of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Jake Kasdan, Judd Apatow, and John C. Reilly are sharing a beer, excited, expectant. There is a puff of smoke. A young woman appears in their midst. She is nondescript, but their attention is drawn to her dress. Peplum silhouettes aren't in. Not… yet. Apatow immediately senses she is from the future.
The Woman: I am from 2013.
The Three Men: Let's just totally accept that without asking a bunch of questions, and assume you're here to tell us about "Walk Hard." It's a hit, right?
The Woman: It is not. You are going to lose money.
The Three Men: Even after the foreign totals?
The Woman: No one outside the United States will watch a movie about the nature of the American music biopic. It will make $2,258,092 extra after the foreign totals.
The Three Men: But… it's so funny.
The Woman (looks warm and empathetic): It's maybe the funniest movie I've ever seen. I watched it at least once a month for three years. Even now, I watch it again whenever someone comes to the house who hasn't seen it. I have it on my laptop. I have bought it for countless friends. I think it should have won the Oscar for Best Picture. I think Margo Martindale should have won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. I think Raymond J. Barry should have won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. It's okay, though, because someone who really loves Walk Hard is going to make a show with Timothy Olyphant to give work to Martindale and Barry. They get theirs.
The Three Men: What… what does win all the Oscars, by the way?
Woman (waves dismissively): It's a blowout for No Country for Old Men. That's not important. I mean, if I wanted to get into minutiae, I'd be talking about the upcoming global economic collapse, right? Lance admitting to doping? There's going to be a black president? None of this matters. I think there's still time for Walk Hard.
The Three Men: Can you tell us how to make it a hit?
The Woman: That I cannot do. I cannot do that. People are idiots. People don't understand. This movie will not succeed.
The Three Men: But, it'll be a cult hit on DVD? Will it be like Wet Hot American Summer, or more like Clerks?
The Woman: No. No one will think better of a person because they speak in its favor. It will be lost to history. There will be no moment that enters the public consciousness.
The Three Men: Not even… ?
The Woman: Committed stoners will speak of the first scene with Dewey in the closet with Tim Meadows. "It's the cheapest drug there is." That's going to get some traction. But, I mean, you already had the stoners. That was never in question.
The Three Men: Yes, there are always the stoners. Apatow has a yacht named "Thanks, Stoners."
The Woman: You're welcome.
The Three Men: So, why are you here?
The Woman: To make it better, for posterity. It could be even better. You need to make some cuts.
The Three Men: It's only 96 minutes long. We're making the director's cut 120 minutes.
The Woman: That is some self-indulgent nonsense.
The Three Men: Okay, what do we cut?
The Woman: Yeah, you know when someone tells Dewey to beware of temptations, and then he walks by the actual Temptations singing in close harmony? And then he says, "Oh no, the Temptations!"?
The Three Men: Hahaha, yeah.
The Woman: Don't fucking have him say, "oh no, the Temptations." Give the moment a chance to land! People are stupid, but they're not that stupid. Also, his line reading there was terrible.
The Three Men: What else?
The Woman: I was traditionally on the fence about him losing his sense of smell, because the scene where he gets it back is stupid, but then you'd miss Margo Martindale, his mom, being amazed he's accomplished so much as a musician "without even having a sense of smell." That can stay. But you need to lose Jonah Hill as his grown-up dead brother. No one likes that. It is for shit.
The Three Men: What about the ghosts at the end, in general?
The Woman: All the ghosts need to go. It's cutesy. And the Lil' Nutzzak dick jokes. Dumb. Let him have his triumphant concert, his flashbacks, the final shot. You can keep the rap video.
The Three Men: Well, these were all very helpful notes.
The Woman: SO, are you going to change it?
The Three Men: No, it's already been sent to theaters, are you nuts? Do you think we have a big reel of film and a pair of scissors? It's been out of our hands for six months.
The Woman: I guess I really should have gone back and killed Hitler instead, huh?
The Three Men: Probably. Thanks, though? Can you tell us more about the global economic collapse?
But she was already gone. Poof.
Previously in series: How 'Minority Report' Trapped Us In A World Of Bad Interfaces
Nicole Cliffe is the books editor of The Hairpin and the proprietress of Lazy Self-Indulgent Book Reviews.