WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY
After a terrible accident with his little brother, Nate (Chip Horness), Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) from Springberry, Alabama, quickly makes a name for himself as a guitar playing singer/songwriter in the 40s and 50s. Married young to Edith (Kristen Wiig), Dewey and his young family head into the world with his dream. After recording his signature hit, Walk Hard, Dewey hits the big time and the road, leaving Edith and their gaggle of kids behind. His backing band is joined by backing singer Darlene (Jenna Fischer), with whom Dewey begins a second marriage. But drugs do him in, as he clambers through the 60s in a psychedelic meltdown; Darlene leaves him and Dewey must find a way to assuage his guilt about Nate, come back to his world of music - and his rather large family.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In many ways outrageous - but not outrageous for long enough - Walk Hard has tremendous appeal and entertainment value. It's a showcase of talent for all concerned, but perhaps it's just that: a showcase. The first half works a treat, with all the loony stuff delivered in a sly, deadpan tone. Brother chopping big brother in half with machete by accident; Pa (a terrific dry comic turn by Raymond J. Barry) forever claiming 'the wrong kid died' as a running gag through the film; the sheer gall of John C. Reilly posing as a 14 year old; the audacious scene when he first picks up a guitar and plays pain-addled blues in an old man's voice ... all this and much more is packed into the establishment scenes with brio. The risks taken are well worth it and they work, including the clever music - almost believable, yet ...
Reilly is perfect for the role, being an accomplished musician with a terrific voice; as the filmmakers note, he sings like Roy Orbison and is built like Johnny Cash. Kristen Wiig and Jenna Fischer as his two wives are also terrific, and the Dewey Cox band is made up of great comedic actors Tim Meadows, Matt Besser and Chris Parnell.
Where the film falters in the second half is in its own conceit: as a fictitious rock star who overcomes adversity to make it big, the comedic fiction can't quite grab that emotional handle within us that needs to be levered open. Once we've had the naked orgy scene in the hotel suite, the predictability of the story, as based on so many other such stories for real, reduces the film's impact. We get listless as he ages and settles down, finds family and stops fouling his own nest. It's only fun when he's a bad, stupid, self destructive, self pitying moron with a good guitar thang. That's the inbuilt obsolescence of the concept.
And some things just don't work: the guru sequence with The Beatles in India, meeting Elvis and Buddy Holly backstage, for example. Nor does the prison & rehab routine, where the line between absurd and plain silly are crossed. But for sheer senseless fun, Walk Hard is easy to take.
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WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY (MA)
CAST: John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Raymond J. Barry, Margo Martindale, Kristen Wiig, Chip Hormess, Conner Rayburn, Tim Meadows, Chris Parnell, David Krumholtz
PRODUCER: Judd Apatow, Jake Kasdan, Clayton Townsend
DIRECTOR: Jake Kasdan
SCRIPT: Judd Apatow, Jake Kasdan
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Uta Briesewitz
EDITOR: Tara Timpone, Steve Welch
MUSIC: Michael Andrews
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jefferson Sage
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 24, 2008