Thursday, December 20, 2007

Reilly Takes the Hard Walk

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
Release: 12/21/2007
Rated R
1 hour, 38 minutes

Second Run Seats ($$)

Two years ago we had “Ray.” Last year we were treated to “Walk the Line.” Now comes the story of musical legend Dewey Cox. Told in much the same way as the Johnny Cash biopic, the story of Dewey Cox begins before a pivotal concert, and then leads into remembrances of his humble beginnings on the farm, his rise to stardom through his infectious songs, his descent into drug abuse and the constant struggle with his inner demons. This is but a glimpse into the life of Dewey Cox.

This parody of the singer-biopic genre was co-written by Hollywood’s golden boy, Judd Apatow (Knocked Up), and director Jake Kasdan (Orange County). Members of Dewey’s band and the women in his life are portrayed by a slew of Saturday Night Live alums, including Tim Meadows (The Ladies Man), Chris Parnell (Hot Rod), and Kristen Wiig (Knocked Up), just to name a few. “Walk Hard” also includes tons of cameos by a wide range of singers and actors, and even a few Apatow favs like Jane Lynch (A Mighty Wind), Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters) and the incomparable Paul Rudd (The OH in Ohio). However, it is one of my personal unsung heroes, John C. Reilly (Chicago), who plays Dewey Cox.

Reilly gives his all for an earnest portrayal of the pseudo-legendary singer Cox, and the performances by the supporting cast are commendable. It’s the source material that cannot sustain the potential of the titular character’s life. Some truly side-splitting moments are spread between long spans of the story trying too hard to be funny. There’s always a fine line between quirkiness and inanity in Apatow’s films, and this one falls too far into the latter. Because it’s a parody the writers were able to draw many obvious parallels to movies like “Ray” and “Walk the Line,” and even make a few more obscure references to movies like “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “La Bamba.” The problem is that the parallels barely added to the humor.

On the plus side, the music is phenomenal. Reilly performs all his own songs and that in itself is a delight. I see myself buying this soundtrack, if for no other reason than not having to sit through the many unfunny and non-musical moments of “Walk Hard” again. I don’t mean to sound so harsh because when this is funny it’s funny, but it’s not nearly as funny as the commercials made it out to be. Maybe that’s because a majority of scenes shown from the trailers are strangely absent…

Dirty Undies
Dewey Cox delivers more than wild drug-induced antics. An orgy aftermath, complete with a room full of pert chesticles and a flaccid cock (thankfully not Cox’s) is on display to be devoured by audience eyes. Jenna Fischer (*Blades of Glory) plays Dewey’s love interest, Darlene, as a lovely and demure southern belle, but the way she works her ice cream and the words coming from her mouth will have your loins yearning for her ring of fire.

The Money Shot
John C. Reilly sings the songs, fights the demons, and walks the hard walk. His performance is one of the best comedic roles of the year in a film that falls well short of audience expectations. With word-of-mouth like it is, Mr. Reilly may need to journey a little longer before finding the vehicle that’ll make him the theatrical juggernaut I know he can be.

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  1. Saw this and Sweeney over the weekend. I'll trade ratings with you. Sweeney was ok but nothing special to me, while I enjoyed Walk Hard, despite how hard it leaned on Walk the Line. Guess the jokes clicked for me. Not the funniest movie of the year or anything, but I never felt like there was a long stretch between laughs. C'est la vie.

    You've been busy!

  2. yep, it was a busy week last week. This week has been much more relaxed. I will be seeing Walk Hard again soon with my wife so I will have to let you know if I enjoy it more without my preconceived high expectations. That's why I try and steer clear of reviews and news articles before I see a film - I hate being mislead.