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|Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Jake Kasdan|
scr Judd Apatow, Jake Kasdan
with John C Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Kristen Wiig, Raymond J Barry, Tim Meadows, David Krumholtz, John Michael Higgins, Margo Martindale, Jack Black, Paul Rudd, Justin Long, Jason Schwartzman
release US 21.Dec.07,
07/US Columbia 1h36
He walks so hard: Fischer and Reilly
Enjoyable and silly, this parody falls at two obvious hurdles: it's spoofing a genre that's already a spoof, due to the formulaic structure of musical biopics. And there's really nothing here besides a knowing, well-made pastiche.
Musical sensation Dewey Cox (Reilly) has always been haunted by a tragic event from his rural Alabama childhood, which cost him the love of his father (Barry) and his sense of smell. His prodigious musical skills propel him to fame through the 1950s and 1960s, until addictions to sex and drugs ruin his two marriages: to childhood sweetheart Edith (Wiig) and backing singer Darlene (Fischer). Rehab helps for awhile, but a relapse in the 1970s causes more problems as his reputation goes to his head. Maybe returning to his roots will be his salvation.
There's a little bit of everyone in Dewey, from Johnny Cash and Ray Charles to Elvis, Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry and even Michael Jackson. And the cast and crew go for broke, playing everything dead straight, no matter how corny the plot gets. The film is packed with hilariously astute running gags, while the filmmakers gleefully indulge in the sex-and-drugs lifestyle, with comedy nudity and a tour of popular drugs through the decades.
They also make fun of various musical periods, such as the 1960s, when music had to be about something (in Dewey's case it's about justice for midgets), and the casual dipping in and out of spirituality, which gives the film its funniest scene when Dewey visits an ashram in India with the Beatles (four hysterically ridiculous cameos). Through the 1970s (come on get happy!) and into the 1990s (where he teams with a rapper), the script playfully examines Dewey's struggle to avoid temptation.
With sharp gags everywhere, it's a shame the filmmakers haven't pushed it any further. It feels like an empty bit of fluff, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but keeps the film from being a true classic. It's aces in the hole, though, are Reilly's remarkably full-on performance and the music itself, which is pure genius on every level. These two things alone make it well worth the price of admission.
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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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