Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story Review

Dec 21, 2007 | 4:25am EST

While clearly a minority some people still need the following clarification: Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) is not and never was a real person and Walk Hard is not his biopic. Going in with the knowledge that this is in fact a spoof music biopic (primarily taking aim at Walk the Line) makes the movie a whole lot more enjoyable. Much like Joaquin Phoenix’s Johnny Cash in Walk the Line  Dewey Cox is set to play a concert in the opening scene but he too first needs to reflect on his whole life. It all started in Springberry Alabama in the 1940s when a young Dewey (Conner Rayburn) accidentally halves his brother (Chip Horness) with a machete. It’s an event that will both haunt Dewey--aided by his dad's (Raymond J. Barry) constant reminder that that “the wrong son died”--and inspire him. The death also teaches Dewey that even at a young age he can play the hell out of a downtrodden blues ditty which leads him to follow his dreams of a career in music. And it’s a career that again plays out like a satire of Cash’s watered-down biography in Walk the Line--complete with drugs aplenty famous encounters (i.e. a kung-fu Elvis as satirized by White Stripes frontman Jack White) tantrums involving sinks and a wife (Kristen Wiig)-vs.-girlfriend (Jenna Fischer) mess. It’s a backhanded slap to the face of John C. Reilly that his first headlining role is as a mock-rocker a hyperbole of a real star but Reilly has shown that he is a real showbiz trooper. While Will Ferrell whom Reilly seems to tap into might’ve been a slightly better fit the well-traveled actor does great work with a much tougher character to play than meets the eye. Like his real biopic-actor counterparts  Reilly sings the songs and dons the dialect but it’s his ability to do so with a constant side of satire that makes this a fantastic performance; such a dichotomy also might explain his suprising Golden Globe nod. Aside from The Office star Fischer--in a great versatile sexy turn (and her biggest role to date) as the pseudo-June Carter to Reilly’s Johnny Cash--and SNL’s Wiig as Cox’s forgotten wife cameos comprise Walk Hard’s supporting cast in the best imaginable way. Just about everyone from NBC’s cool shows (30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer The Office’s Craig Robinson SNL’s Chris Parnell/Tim Meadows) and the Judd Apatow Comedy Troupe (David Krumholtz Harold Ramis Martin Starr) pops up. But the movie’s best cameos come from Justin Long Jack Black  Jason Schwartzman and Paul Rudd as (probably improvised) acid-trip versions of George Harrison Paul McCartney  Ringo Starr and John Lennon respectively. These days it seems Judd Apatow could merely be friends with someone who’s working on a movie and it becomes an “Apatow production ” but his fingerprints are all over Walk Hard. The comedy tastemaker co-wrote and produced this spoof with his Freaks and Geeks cohort Jake Kasdan (Orange County) who directed; however while his sense of humor is apparent here his imagination isn’t. The very nature of a spoof clashes with his brand of realistic comedy that has become the toast of the film industry and the result is funny but lacking creatively--rather un-Apatowian. On the bright side Walk Hard’s best moments are ones he probably thought up namely an unexpected penis scene that’ll make you laugh-squirm and the tunes are so catchy--despite being laden with double entendres--that they and not the jokes will be stuck in your head. In fact the fake-song lyrics are as clever as Apatow dares to go. Direction-wise the movie like all spoofs doesn’t exactly require an Orson Welles to make it work but Kasdan does a solid job of separating the real from the faux. Plus the music scenes probably took more work than their comedy lets on. Otherwise though it’s not like there’s anything here to somehow render Kasdan superior to the Scary/Epic/Date Movie spoofers.

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