Walk Hard: An Early Review
by Kevin Crossman

With Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, filmmakers Jake Kasdan and Judd Apatow have created one of the most unique movie experiences in years. The film works equally as a musical parody for fans in the know, but also as standard farce for less-knowledgable moviegoers. Plus, it's an outstanding story that provides genuine emotional appeal with a surprisingly engaging story about redemption and family. It also happens to be one of the funniest films of the year and the best "mockumentary" since This is Spinal Tap.

In a ten-minute prologue, we learn about Dewey Cox, a fun-loving country kid who accidentally kills his overachieving golden child of a brother with a machete. Scorned at home by his father (Raymond J. Berry) who constantly reminds him "the wrong kid died," Dewey soon sets off on his own as a fourteen year-old with the twelve year-old bride Edith (Kristen Wiig). Dewey struggles with his musical career but soon finds fame with his signature song "Walk Hard." As Dewey's fame rises, he deals with drugs, infidelity, and a beautiful backup singer named Darlene Madison (Jenna Fischer) who he falls in love with.

As the 60s arrive, Dewey finds himself in prison and later rehab. He achieves a career renaissance until The Beatles introduce him to LSD in an especially effective scene that features hilarious cameos by Paul Rudd, Jack Black, Justin Long, and Jason Schwartzmann as the Fab Four. As the sixties end, Dewey's life is in another dark place. His career rebounds in the 70s as CBS green lights "The Dewey Cox Variety Show" for television. But, sadly, Dewey's life apart from Darlene is empty and unfulfilled.

The last act provides true drama to this otherwise silly movie. This is where John C. Reilly's acting chops really come in handy. He's hilarious throughout and his singing is outstanding. But the dramatic material really needed an actor to pull off properly and Reilly is "guilty as charged." The last scene might even bring a tear to your eye, like it did for me.

Walk Hard features an incredible soundtrack that features a myriad of musical styles from the past fifty years. Though the title song will remind you of Johnny Cash, this is not a parody of Walk the Line. That film's musical and thematic notes are present to be sure, but educated viewers will see similarities in the story and the music to Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, and others. While not every song on the outstanding soundtrack is featured in the film, several songs shine in the movie. The title track receives the requisite montage treatment, complete with the familiar Billboard chart framing. "Guilty as Charged," "Let's Duet," and "Beautiful Ride" are just a few of the outstanding tunes in this parody that like This is Spinal Tap features true musical credibility.

Film buffs who like cameos will love Walk Hard. The film features a veritable cornucopia of gag casting, featuring numerous performers from past Apatow productions. In addition to the aforementioned Beatles casting, the film also features Frankie Muniz as Buddy Holly and musician Jack White as Elvis. Other cameos are so delightful they won't be spoiled here, but let's just say that you won't be disappointed unless you're a fan of Will Ferrell (who doesn't appear) or Patrick Duffy (who's cameo from the trailer didn't make the final cut).

Fans of The Office will be very interested in the movie. Jenna Fischer may not win an Oscar like her counterpart Reese Witherspoon but she does bring the requisite comedic heft during her overly emotional scenes opposite Reilly. She delivers ridiculous lines like "they say the 60's are an important time" like a pro. That's not Fischer's voice during one of the film's signature scenes, "Let's Duet", however.  Craig Robinson does get to sing however, playing an early R&B singer who's illness provides a springboard to the young Dewey Cox. His song "Jump Little Children" is also featured on the Deluxe Exclusive version of the soundtrack available at iTunes. Ed Helms has a brief role as a stage manager and gets off a couple funny lines.

The film isn't perfect. There are big jumps in time that aren't handled very well, and at times the cameos draw attention away from both the drama and even some of the jokes. Also, our favorite song from the Deluxe Exclusive version of the soundtrack, the emotionally wrenching "Weeping on the Inside," was played for laughs rather than drama as it probably deserved.

Minor quibbles aside, Walk Hard is a revelation. Who gives a damn about this being a comedy, give Reilly another Oscar nomination says we! With powerful songs, hilarious dialogue and performances, and more Cox than you can shake a stick at, this is truly an outstanding film.

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Category:general -- posted at: 3:35pm EDT

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