Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (***)

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John C. Reilly is a tremendous actor, a performer that can play just about any kind of role, in any kind of movie. Up until a couple of years ago, Reilly was mostly known for dramas, independent films, you know, “important” movies. Then, he played Will Ferrell’s best buddy Clay in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and showed everybody that, yeah, he could play broad humor too. In Jake Kasdan’s new parody of music biopics, Walk Hard, Reilly plays Dewey Cox, a musical legend who overcomes guilt, drug addiction, greed, divorce and other obstacles to become a true icon. Yes, Dewey Cox is mostly based on Johnny Cash (and the film itself more or less follows Walk the Line‘s plot), but also on Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Buddy Holly, Brian Wilson, Waylon Jennings and probably a few others that I’m forgetting.

Like A Mighty Wind, Walk Hard features a barrage of original songs that both mock and pay homage to a specific musical genre. The songs are pretty well done, including the title number, “Guilty as Charged” and the innuendo filled “Let’s Duet.” I especially enjoyed the sequence when Dewey, strung out on LSD and God knows what else, fills a room full of hundreds of musicians in order to create his drug-fueled masterpiece, in a scene obviously inspired by Brian Wilson, who was known to create such atmospheres for his songs.

 

Walk Hard is a ridiculous movie, but I couldn’t help laughing, laughing a lot. It helps that Kasdan is a very smart writer (check out his films Zero Effect and The TV Set for examples of his fine use of dialogue) and he obviously cares about Dewey, and it’s not just a series of cheap jokes. Ok, there are a lot of cheap jokes in here (and about four hundred penis gags), but still, the film has a heart. The key to this is Reilly’s endearing, sharp performance as Cox. Reilly’s work here is hilarious, but more than that, it’s real, it’s authentic (plus, he does all his own singing).

Walk Hard features a cast of about half of the comic actors working in show business right now, including Tim Meadows, Jenna Fischer as Darlene (the June Carter Cash character), Chris Parnell, Jason Schwartzman and a bunch of cameos I wouldn’t dream of ruining. Since the film is co-written and co-produced by Judd Apatow (the director of The 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up), you can figure there will be a few notable actors in smaller roles. I will say that Jack White of the White Stripes does make a pretty good Elvis, though. Raymond J. Barry does a good job playing Cox’s father, in what could of been a thankless role.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is silly, ridiculous and absolutely hysterical.

 

 

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