Film Reviews

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story Jake Kasdan

Rating - 7/10

Somewhere between lofty satires and disposeable spoofs is the parody, and done well it is tremendously entertaining.  Right now American cinema is inundated with Movie movies (Epic, Date, Whatever), and these are supposed to be "spoofs", which seems today to mean "random pastiches of irrelevant pop-culture referents without actual jokes attached".  Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is the superior counter-example to these spoofs, a parody rife with well-identified tropes from the sub-genre of Oscar-baiting musical biopics, a keen sense of detail and performances which are much better than they have to be.

Once again I'll express my admiration for the Apatow factory products directed by more cinematically adept colleagues.  Here, Jake Kasdan (Lawrence's son who made the overlooked but sublime Sherlock Holmes pisstake The Zero Effect) masters both the detailed mimicry of period recreation in movies like Ray and Walk The Line as well as a nice sense of comic pacing and visual montage jokery. 

John C. Reilly, a great dramatic actor who has been funny before both in ostensive dramas (the hilarious Boogie Nights) and as a sidekick in recent Apatow blockbuster comedies (Talladega Nights...come to think of it, a movie about any sort of Nights with Reilly seems bound to be great), carries the movie wonderfully, and has amazing backup from a cast of superb improv actors and celebrity cameos playing real music legends (Jack White as Elvis was particularly inspired). 

Dewey Cox (the fake rock star subject played by Reilly/name with an excuse for quite a few dick jokes) has a band cast with an all-star line-up of American improv institutions.  Chris Parnell (LA's Groundlings), Matt Bessar (New York's Upright Citizen's Brigade), and Tim Meadows (Chicago's Second City) show how to comically support an outrageous lead performance.  Meadows has a particularly masterful running gag where he repeatedly admonishes Reilly not to touch an escalating series of drugs while selling him on their awesome benifits.  Kristen Wiig and Jenna Fischer provide standout performances as Dewey's two wives (the pathologically unsupportive one and the idealized savior).

The movie succeeds in the way early films by the Zuckers and Jim Abrahms (Airplane, The Kentucky Fried Movie) did, in that it is funny even if one does not know the referents it is parodying.  Maybe not quite as funny though, and the script's fanboy enthusiasm for biopic conventions may have led the film not to be as widely embraced as Apatow hits like Knocked Up and Superbad, which dealt with universal angst situations involving fucking (though incidentally, Walk Hard may have the most actual sex and nudity of any Apatow production yet).  Beyond the comedy, however, Walk Hard works because it triumphs in the way a good biopic does:  the character and story are moving, and it is all set to great music.  This is destined to become a cult item, but the soundtrack of 20th century pop soundalikes, done with as much love and observational care as the set dressing, will endure just as much.