Sowing their oats on the mammoth success of Superbad and Knocked Up (although I wasn’t overly impressed with it) earlier this year, the Judd Apatow team of writers and actors figured to lower the standards of the biography genre with Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Just with the name, you know full well what you’re in for . . .
But unfortunately, the play on the title of the movie is about as funny as the film gets. That’s right, it had to happen sooner or later – Team Apatow has stumbled. The concept of poking fun at movies like Ray, La Bamba and Walk the Line without really lampooning them (or offending them) is true. What falters is the majority of the jokes are older than dirt and fall flatter than a prepubescent girl’s chest.
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story chronicles the life of Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) from childhood in the 1930’s to his ripe old age in the present. As a 14-year old kid he gets booted from his house by his father who reminds him and us 50 times too many that “The wrong kid died” (Dewey was blamed for the death of his brother). Tagging along with him on his adventure is his 12-year old girlfriend Edith (Kristen Wiig), who churns out babies faster than a jackrabbit and constantly reminds Dewey he is going to fail. To support the ever-growing family and his desire to be a musician he takes a job at an all-black nightclub where he gets noticed and signed by Jewish record executives (even then, the media was run by Jews – imagine that).
As the years progress so does Cox’s descent into becoming a pampered, cocky musician who is convinced that his shit doesn’t stink. In one of the funnier running bits, he begins experimenting with different drugs, even though his drummer Sam (Tim Meadows) tells him he should stay away from them (while espousing on how good they are). Mild humor can be found in his changing of musical influences from 1950’s big bop/rock to 1960’s protest/folk to 1970’s hippie inspired experimental/orchestral pieces. The best scene being his meeting with the Beatles (cameos by Jack Black, Paul Rudd, Jason Schwartzman and Justin Long) in India. You can see they’re all having a great time during the filming and it comes across the screen fabulously. The on again-off again love affair between him and his back-up singer Darlene Madison (Jenna Fischer) is long winded and contrived. Its only saving grace is the fact that Jenna is a fine specimen to look at and the song “Let’s Duet” that they perform together is priceless.
Holding it all together though, is John C. Reilly who seemed to have really bought into the fact that he was a musician named Dewey Cox. It also helps that he has that distinct, ‘dopey’ look about him that works no matter what wig he wears or what scenario he finds himself in. I’d go so far as to say that he is the only guy who could have pulled this role off. He definitely deserves his Golden Globe nomination for Actor in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy.
That notwithstanding, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is not a very good movie. There are just too many golden opportunities that were missed. And while I’m certainly not ready to blacklist the Apatow crew, I hope they get back to what made them so successful – wild, original and crude humored movies that satisfies the adolescent in us all.