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  Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Starring: John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Kristen Wiig, Tim Meadows

Directed by: Jake Kasdan

Produced by: Judd Apatow, Jake Kasdan, Clayton Townsend

Written by: Judd Apatow, Jake Kasdan

Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing


     When viewed as a straightforward spoof of the musical-biopic genre, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story comes across as a flat, uninspired spin-off of the Scary Movie series. When viewed as comedic-genius Judd Apatow’s writing follow-up to this summer’s Knocked Up, the movie can’t help but seem like a complete and utter failure. Walk Hard’s wonderful high-concept is the only thing funny about it; the plot and jokes are as by-the-numbers and predictable as one could possibly imagine. Apatow and co-writer/director Jake Kasdan (who also helmed the brilliant Jack Black-vehicle Orange County) seem to have hit an embarrassing dry spot in their respective resumes with this film, leaving the unimpressed viewer praying that it only represents a small hiccup in their otherwise-thriving careers and not the sign of a beginning trend.

     John C. Reilly plays title figure Dewey Cox, a rock-‘n-roll front-man desperate to become a legend. From a very young age, Dewey was neglected by his parents, who invested all of their attention in his musical-genius of a brother. Unfortunately, Dewey killed this brother by accidentally cutting him in half in a machete-fight. Disowned by his father because of this, he decided that he would try to live up to the Cox name for his late brother’s sake. In order to do so, Dewey became a musician himself after realizing that he could play the guitar in a chance-encounter with some Blues musicians at the local general store. Walk Hard chronicles Dewey’s rise to fame, as well as his subsequent personal marital-troubles and drug-problems.

     As funny as Walk Hard may sound on paper, its number of actual laugh-out-loud moments is close to none. Apatow and Kasdan usually take the film exactly where one would expect them to, using the inspired plot as a gimmick, not the ripe source of comedy that it could have been. Part of the problem is their heavy reliance on spoofing Walk the Line, a musical-biopic that miraculously skirted around the very conventions of the genre that Walk Hard mocks. Because that film was so beautifully-conceived, this one’s attempts to poke fun at it seem undeserving and lacking a satiric edge. Apatow and Kasdan’s approach is eerily reminiscent of the writers of the aforementioned Scary Movie films; they aimlessly lampoon any thinkable element of Walk the Line and other musical biopics just because they can, not because doing so makes for smart comedy. And when they’re out of targets for humor in that department, the pair relies on poo-poo-ga-ga-esque jokes that are even more insufferable to fill the void. (It should be noted, however, that they are responsible for one hilarious sequence that would’ve been right at home had it appeared in Todd Haynes’ recent I’m Not There, in which Dewey imitates Bob Dylan.)

     If there’s one reason to see Walk Hard, it’s Reilly’s bombastic performance as Dewey. The actor’s work contains the very sharpness and wittiness that is missing from the screenplay. He makes Dewey feel like a real star, not just a caricature designed for the sole purpose of playfully mocking Joaquin Phoenix’s Johnny Cash or Jamie Foxx’s Ray Charles. As a result, the humor that Reilly creates on his own feels far more authentic and biting than anything that Apatow and Kasdan offer up. He pokes fun at Hollywood by embodying it in Dewey Cox, not merely exploiting a brilliant concept for the film’s ninety-six minutes. In fact, Apatow recently stated in a promotional interview that Reilly was cast in the role because of the fact that he could also get away with playing a serious version of Dewey in a “real” production of the sort. For exactly this reason, the selection was perfect. How unfortunate that the other creative choices made by those involved in the making of Walk Hard were nowhere near as creative or as innovative.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 12.23.2007

Screened on: 12.21.2007 at the Krikorian Vista Village Metroplex 15 in Vista, CA.


Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is rated R and runs 96 minutes.

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