Review: Walk Hard The Dewey Cox Story
PLOT: When Dewey Cox was a young lad, his brother dies in a horribly machete accident leaving his father longing for his dead son. Meanwhile, poor Dewey loses his sense of smell leaving him a scared little boy. Lucky for him, he discovers his talent for music and goes on to become a legendary singer. Along the way, he has too many wives, too many children and uses too many drugs. It’s the fictional account of superstar, Dewey Cox… but this ain’t your parents music bio flick.
The funny thing about WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY, is how terrific looking everything is. It feels very much like the recent WALK THE LINE or RAY, yet it is much more kin to AIRPLANE! or TOP SECRET. When young Dewey Cox and his brother go out and play, they look for a little bit of rattlesnake tossing, taunting a bull, welding and finally a little machete action. It sounds awful, but it is far from it. There is nothing too serious in WALK HARD, from Dewey Cox and his drug habit, his first wife who continually tells him he’ll fail, all the way up to his final days with a whole lot of children. It is played for laughs yet it is so true to those earlier bio pics mentioned, that sometimes you forget that you are watching a humorous take on the genre. It seems director Jake Kasden (who co-wrote the script with Judd Apatow) wanted this to look and feel as close to a serious Oscar type flick as possible… and it certainly does.
What worked for WALK THE LINE, works here. That terrific shot of Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon performing “Jackson” is well represented here as Dewey Cox and Darlene (Jenna Fischer) perform the catchy double entendre of “Let’s Duet”. In fact, the filmmakers really take advantage of a talented cinematographer to make this look better than any “spoof” before it. And in case that’s not enough, the shining star is the music. There are some damn fine, toe-tapping songs which are catchy as hell and sometimes, you may even forget the silly lyrics. With songs like “Guilty as Charged”, “(I Hate You) Big Daddy” and the title song “Walk Hard”, this feels like the music of days gone by. Looking back, I can barely remember any song that came from TOP SECRET, but I guarantee, many of the songs here will stick in my noggin for long time.
Yet, as much as I love Judd Apatow’s past films, I did find that the humor just didn’t have me laughing my ass off as much as his previous offerings this past year. I chuckled more with him as producer on SUPERBAD, and I was really touched by him as director with KNOCKED UP. This is not to say that WALK HARD isn’t funny. It is funnier than most every other comedy that wasn’t touched by Mr. Apatow this year or a few cool Indie comedies that came and went. But I found a few of the jokes to grow stale after awhile, including Dewey’s dad and his claim regarding his son. But for a film of this ilk that isn’t AIRPLANE, I did remain on board for the majority of the ride, and really dug the ending.
WALK HARD is loaded with familiar faces, and that only adds to the fun. You’ve got Eddie Vedder, Jack White, Jack Black, Paul Rudd, David Krumholtz and many others. And I really have to give kudos to John C. Reilly as Dewey Cox. This is one of those performances that I really couldn’t imagine anyone else giving. He is able to take on the comedy like a champ and yet still offer shades of seriousness when his life begins to fall apart. He gives a great performance even though much of it is completely over the top. He took this role seriously enough to give Cox shades of depth. I’m not talking subtle, there is no room for that here, but every so often you find his character very sympathetic. I suppose you’d have to when you see him yelling at his baby that he doesn’t need them… if anything, the baby needs Dewey. Moments like that are priceless thanks to Reilly doing what he always does, giving it his all.
Aside from his performance there are many others that add a whole lot to this tale of woe. Jenna Fischer is wonderful as she portrays the June Carter to Dewey’s Cash. Speaking of wives, Kristen Wiig tackles Dewey’s first wife with absolute charm. I’ve never seen someone tell another person that they will never make it in such a sweet way. It’s nice to see such a talented group of actors take on a script like this. It feels much better than it should have been, after all, aside from AIRPLANE!, there are very few of these types of movies that remain funny for more than a half an hour. And while WALK HARD at times, threatens to overstay it’s welcome, it always brings back the funny by offering up a witty look at a faux musical legend. My rating 8/10 -- JimmyO