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Judd Apatow has had just about the best year anyone could ask for. With Knocked Up, which he wrote and directed, and Superbad, which he produced, he changed the way Hollywood thinks about comedies and launched the careers of Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Michael Cera. (Presumably, he also made millions in the process.) The days of toiling on television in quickly-cancelled shows like Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared are over.
Of course, anyone who explodes like Apatow is bound to have a backlash sometime soon, and before I saw Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, I was expecting it to be the catalyst for one. Instead of another hilarious, foul-but-warm comedy like the earlier two, Walk Hard, which he produced and co-wrote along with director Jake Kasdan, looked to be a simple spoof movie, a subgenre that has given us in recent years (except for the underrated Not Another Teen Movie) atrocities like Date Movie.
And yes, anyone who sees it will be surprised just how different Walk Hard is from the Apatow style we've gotten used to. But if anything, that just proves the man's range. A parody of biopics, particularly Walk the Line, Walk Hard doesn't come close to the gold standard of spoof movies "” that would be Airplane!, obviously "” but it breathes life into the genre and is hands-down much better than any of the Scary Movies.
Instead of Ray Charles or Johnny Cash, this time we're treated to the life story of Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly), a country/rock/folk singer who experiences tragedy at an early age, marries the wrong woman who doesn't believe in him (Kristen Wiig of SNL), hits the big time, meets the right woman who does believe in him (Jenna Fischer of The Office), develops a drug habit, gets arrested, rebounds, etc.
But while the film obviously borrows its structure, it isn't simply a series of scenes that have been done in other movies. Like the best spoof movies (again, Airplane!), you don't have to have seen the movies it's sending up in order to appreciate the humor. It achieves this by fully investing in its own legend. By the end of the movie, you start to feel as though Dewey Cox actually existed, because of the movie's steadfast insistence "”with more than a few winks, of course "” that what you're watching is a love letter to a legend.
The songs help "” the movie features at least a half-dozen of them that, while usually funny, also actually succeed musically. Stuff like "Guilty as Charged"Â and the title tune I
actually wouldn't mind having on my iPod, and indeed, John C. Reilly is on a multi-city music tour right now playing the film's soundtrack. Humor-wise, the "Let's Duet"Â duet between Reilly and Fischer is a double-entendre-laden highlight. The first line is, "In my dreams, you're blowing me…some kisses,"Â and it goes on similarly from there.
The film also succeeds because it becomes a spoof of the entire music world in general, using a number of hilarious cameos. Some are music stars themselves – Jack White of the White Stripes has a good scene as Elvis, while Eddie Vedder shows up as himself "” and some are stars you'll recognize from previous Apatow movies and others. The guy playing Buddy Holly gets a good laugh, but the best part by far is when Dewey meets the Beatles, which brings the house down. It's the best scene in the movie.
Unfortunately, the movie feels like it runs too long. For every comedic highlight, I still walked away thinking the movie could've been funnier, and I think that's because it drags in a bunch of areas that could've been tightened up with some editing. We didn't really need the role of the manager (David Krumholtz), and the fifteenth time Dewey's father shouts "The wrong kid died!"Â is probably about twelve times too many. That joke is particularly odd, because otherwise, there aren't really any tiresome running jokes. Heck, they only use "Cox"Â as a double-entendre like three times.
It's not brilliant, and frankly it's not as good as Knocked Up or Superbad either, but Walk Hard can be credited with breathing some life into the flat-lined spoof genre, which is a feat in and of itself. Everybody's having a really good time, so even though it may not go down in history like Dewey Cox did, you'll have a good time too.
Movie Grade: B+
In Columbia Pictures’ new comedy “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” co-written and produced by Judd Apatow (“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”; “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”) and co-written, produced, and directed by Jake Kasdan, John C. Reilly stars as the larger-than-life musician and songwriter Dewey Cox.
America loves Cox! But behind the music is the up-and-down-and-up-again story of a musician whose songs would change a nation. On his rock ‘n roll spiral, Cox sleeps with 411 women, marries three times, has 22 kids and 14 stepkids, stars in his own 70s TV show, collects friends ranging from Elvis to the Beatles to a chimp, and gets addicted to — and then kicks — every drug known to man… but despite it all, Cox grows into a national icon and eventually earns the love of a good woman — longtime backup singer Darlene (Jenna Fischer).