The Ballad of Davy Crockett Image

The Ballad of Davy Crockett

By Alex Saveliev | March 4, 2024

I love a good old-fashioned Western. Derek Estlin Purvis, who wrote and directed The Ballad of Davy Crockett, clearly shares my passion. Every shot makes it evident that the man yanked his heart right out of his chest and wore it proudly on his sleeve throughout production. Of course, this renders this entire enterprise that much more hilarious – and, lest one misinterprets me, that’s not an insult. This ballad falls right into the singular category of “so bad, it’s good,” a low-budget, highfalutin, bold, wildly overacted, and at times oddly lyrical gem that ought not to be overlooked.

After a brief and somewhat ponderous introduction – its meandering nature counterbalanced by all the OTT make-up – wherein Tennessee representative Davy (William Moseley) pledges his support and efforts to the enactment of the Indian Removal Act bill, the narrative goes into full throttle. Choosing his family over politics, Davy embarks on a treacherous journey home to his bedridden wife, Polly (Valerie Jane Parker), and two young sons, John (Wyatt Parker) and William (Nico Tirozzi). A wolf attack leaves Davy badly injured and horse-less, deep in Native American territory. Yes, those are the same “Indians” he pledged to remove.

In the meantime, John and William struggle to take care of their ailing mom, though neither of them is quite old enough to hunt or chop wood. Instead, they steal a trapped beaver for its meat, unaware that it belongs to Caleb (Colm Meaney), a corrupt, violent bureaucrat from a fur trading company who wants his pelt back. The three storylines converge, of course, when the monstrous Caleb confronts the family, and a prolonged chase through the woods ensues.

“…Davy embarks on a treacherous journey home to his bedridden wife…”

There are so many pleasures to be derived from The Ballad of Davy Crockett that I’m not sure where to start. There’s the hammy acting from the multi-accented cast. Moseley, who was decent in The Chronicles of Narnia trilogy, proclaims each of his lines with an exclamation point in a can’t-take-your-eyes-off performance. Meaney, a screen veteran, is always a pleasure to watch, and here he takes the opportunity to chew scenery like it is beaver jerky. The stalwart actor manages to sell clumsy, confusing lines like, “Didn’t your daddy teach you not to pull the trigger before you’re sure you’re shot?”

But Purvis, whether knowingly or not, imbues the film with a variety of quotable moments. A choice few of them: “Do you know the value of a beaver pelt?” “We’re sorry we took your beaver, mister.” “Now, hold on! There’s no way I’ll allow this travesty and injustice!” “I can’t protect my own family from civil men; how will I ever protect a whole nation from the savages?”

In between the hilarity – that single-take shot of Davy’s boys escaping Caleb’s camp has to be seen to be believed (the fake running!) – arrive moments of unexpected lyricism. A herd of wild horses runs past Davy while he camps, leading him to tame one in a nearly poetic, gently handled sequence. A moment of true intensity arrives when Polly feels better, albeit briefly, and fends for her children.

The Ballad of Davy Crockett is pure B-flick heaven. If you’re a snob, there’s a lot to bitch about: the made-for-TV production values, the very modern casting choices for 19th Century America, the inconsistent accents, the narrative missteps, chief among the issues. If you’re like me, you’ll curl up and eat it all up with a side of edibles.

The Ballad of Davy Crockett (2024)

Directed and Written: Derek Estlin Purvis

Starring: William Moseley, Colm Meaney, Wyatt Parker, Nico Tirozzi, Valerie Jane Parker, etc.

Movie score: 6/10

The Ballad of Davy Crockett  Image

"…pure B-flick heaven."

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