Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story Movie Review

R, 96 min, 2007

Director: Jake Kasdan
Writers: Judd Apatow, Jake Kasdan
Stars: John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, David Krumholtz

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, an outrageous parody of musical biopics, is a tasteless, profane, over-the-top affair that somehow manages to be fairly believable as it follows the contours of such prestige pictures as Ray (2004) and Walk the Line (2005).

John C. Reilly is Dewey Cox, a young man from the South who played with machetes as a child, much to the detriment of his brother one day, whom he accidentally afflicts with what the doctor calls “A particularly bad case of someone being cut in half.” Immediately, Dewey’s father (Raymond J. Barry from Born on the Fourth of July, among others) takes to saying “The wrong kid died,” as his dead son’s promise is now snuffed out. Nevertheless, Dewey’s mother (Margo Martindale) remains as supportive as she can be.

Dewey grows up a bit and a concert in junior high school (Reilly plays himself at age 14) ends particularly badly in a violent riot and a religious furvor over what the pastor calls “the Devil’s music.” I dunno, it sounded rather innocent to me. Practically run out on a rail, Dewey and his childhood sweetheart (Kristen Wiig) must improvise. No matter: Dewey has a future outside of this podunk town anywho. Dewey and his young wife take to the suburbs and attempt to find themselves, though his wife says “You’re never gonna make it in the music businessness” even after he has a no. 1 hit song on the radio.

Dewey cycles through styles and time periods, addictions and rehabilitation clinics, gag after gag. Along the way, he meets singer/musician Darlene (Jenna Fischer from The Office) and they get married, only to realize that they’ve let Dewey’s previous marriage become an afterthought – he wasn’t divorced. Why can’t a famous person be married to two women at the same time?

Throughout the years, Dewey’s supported by longtime bandmates (including Chris Parnell and Tim Meadows). His style changes from Johnny Cash-esque to Bob Dylan-esque (Why don’t the press ever ask Dylan why he copies Cox instead of the other way around?). Various celebrities pass through Dewey’s field of vision, including Elvis (Jack White of the White Stripes; looked like Giovanni Ribisi to me) and the Beatles (played by Jack Black, Paul Rudd, Jason Schwartzman and Justin Long!). The film even features a Yellow Submarine-esque “bad trip” on acid complete with animation.

The film was directed by Jake Kasdan (Zero Effect, The TV Set), who co-wrote with Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin andKnocked Up). They pretty much have a go-for-broke mentality, with off-color humor, in-jokes and political incorrectness up the ying-yang. Perhaps the best things that can be said for this film is that it is very well-made, copying convincingly the look of the biopics it lampoons, while Reilly embodies a potentially great musician who was a has-been in record time, only to recover. That, and the film is very, very funny.

Note: The Extended Edition runs 120 minutes on DVD.

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Filed under 2007

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