Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Jake Kasdan’s ‘Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox story’ is a different kind of film in that it’s a spoof comedy, to be certain, that plays it straight. If that makes any kind of sense. It’s not ‘Airplane’ or ‘The Naked Gun’ wacky, nor is it as irreverent as ‘Anchorman’. But it’s not a straight comedy like ‘The Wedding Crashers’ or ‘The Forty year old Virgin’ either. It’s kind of hard to describe, and I hesitate to make the comparison, but ‘This is Spinal Tap’ comes to mind, though it’s probably closer in theme and tone to ‘Fear of a Black Hat’. Yes, that was a lot of movie name dropping to say essentially nothing, but whaddayagonnado?

We first meet the mythical Dewey (John C. Reilly) in present time at a reunion concert honoring his music. The stage manager is looking for him because it’s time for his set, and there Dewey is, leaning against a wall in deep thought. Dewey can’t go on just yet because as his friend, drummer and gateway drug conduit Sam (Tim Meadows) informs the stage manager, ‘Dewey can’t perform until he recalls his entire life’. And off we go.

Young Dewey (Conner Rayburn) is a precocious young kid living in hickville with his folks who only wants to play with his virtually perfect concert piano playing brother Nate (Chip Hormess). Tragically, while playing with machetes, Dewey slices the favored son in half. The talking half of Nate advises Dewey that he now has to be twice as great since he’s been cut in two. Still this doesn’t please Dewey’s dad (Raymond J. Berry) who continuously reminds Dewey that ‘The wrong damn son died’. Now 15 and being played a 40 year old John C. Reilly, Dewey has found his calling and it’s singing the Devil’s Rock and Roll! Cast out of the house Dewey takes his 13 year old bride Edith (Kristin Wiig) and is off to destinations unknown to pursue his dream.

Dewey finds his big break subbing in for the lead guitar player at an African American juke joint, where folks can freely dance erotically, which rockets Dewey, and his anthem ‘Walk Hard’ to the stratosphere. Through the years Dewey forms a band, meets the love of his life, who happens to not be his wife, in Darlene (Jenna Fischer), tries every single drug imaginable despite the protestations of his drummer Sam who is already doing every drug imaginable, becomes a legend, meets The Beatles, turns into a bad animation, spends days upon end in rehab, loses his band, talks to his dead brother and constantly rips sinks out bathroom walls. But it’s alright though because it’s all about the music. Remember kids, you can do whatever the hell you want as long as you keep it about the music.

‘Walk Hard’, obviously a spoof of ‘Walk the Line’ and ‘Ray’ – Dewey lost his sense of smell, which comes to a head later on in one of the movies funnier scenes, is more cleverly funny than outrageously funny as there is probably some kind of underlying joke in nearly every word and every note you hear. Sure, watching someone talk while getting cut in half is pretty outrageous and the film has certainly its fair share of infantile potty humor but I don’t think it has nearly enough to please, say, the ‘Anchorman’ crowd. Part of this may be because Kasdan really has taken this fictional biopic very serious with the focus of the film being on Reilly and his performance as Dewey and not on finding new ways to wrangle stupid cheap laughs, and though I appreciated this lack of buffoonery, I’m not sure the box office receipts will appreciate it near as much. Oh well.

Anyone who saw John C. Reilly and his rendition of ‘Mr. Cellophane’ in the movie ‘Chicago’ realized then the man has a fine voice but the music in ‘Walk Hard’ is something else altogether (Airplane reference). There are finely constructed songs in this film with my particular favorite being Dewey channeling Harry Chapin with his ode to midgets. Make sure you don’t miss Paul Rudd as ‘The Smart Beatle’ and Jack Black as ‘The Fat Beatle’ who used to be ‘The Cute Beatle’, that is until Jack Black played Paul McCartney in this movie. Also if George was ‘The Quiet Beatle’ then which one was Ringo? Please don’t tell me ‘The Least Talented Beatle’ because that wouldn’t be cool. And what was up with dudes flaccid penis filling up my movie screen? Jake? Can you tell me what was up with that?

This was a comedy with many layers and possibly may be too complex for it own good, but I cherished this spoof from its clever parts to even the complete buffoonery. There were so many little pop culture references and winks and nods lobbed our way that I know I couldn’t have possibly caught them all and I will certainly get the DVD when it is released so I can experience this movie again at home. Except for that dudes penis. Really, what was up with that Jake?

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