I’ve been renting some odd things of late, which is why I’m now reviewing “Walk Hard” a parody biopic from the Apatow camp. Let’s just hope it’s not 2 hours of semi-improvised crap, eh?
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)
I nearly turned “Walk Hard” off after the first ten minutes. I don’t normally give up on films that easily, but when the first joke is a stagehand going round saying “Guys, I need Cox” it’s fucking tempting. I know I should have expected it from a film called “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”, but I persevered nonetheless.
The film follows the life of Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) as he struggles against adversity in an effort to become a legendary musician. Er… that’s about it. Most of the film parodies Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line”, but there are many references to other biopics too. I’ve always thought that biopics were ripe for parody and I’m glad to say that “Walk Hard” does this pretty damn successfully. Okay, it’s no “This is Spinal Tap” or even “A Mighty Wind”, but then again-what is these days? I really like Reilly in general and he pulls off Cox (fnarr and indeed, fnarr) with just the right amount of self-awareness. It’s not overly silly or serious. Pitch perfect.
I never thought I’d say this, but “Walk Hard” reminded me of “Juno”. Whilst “Walk Hard” did not have a fo’ shizz “zany” pregnant teenager, it does share the curse of a bad opening. As I said, the “needing Cox” gag didn’t exactly sell the film to me. Neither did the bit where the young Dewey accidentally cuts his beloved brother in half. I believe my exact thought at that point was an elongated and exasperated “Ah, shit…” However, by some miracle the film got better and much funnier. It cleverly takes shots at “Walk the Line” without getting preoccupied and losing the sense of story. I giggled an embarrassing amount when we see the 14 year old Dewey (a fully grown Reilly, doing a higher voice and in full school uniform) sings “Take My Hand” at a school talent show and causes a riot in which girls rip open their blouses and a preacher gets punched.
As with most Apatow films, “Walk Hard” seems all about the cameos from previous Apatow films. We have Jonah Hill (Superbad), Craig Robinson (Pineapple Express) and others just turning up out of the blue. It’s not as if I mind a director sticking with an actor or two because he enjoys working with them, but it seems that just because Judd Apatow is producing, these people have to be crowbarred in somewhere. There are enjoyable cameos though, including “The Beatles”- with Jack Black as Paul McCartney (!), Frankie Muniz as Buddy Holly and strangely, Jack White (he of “White Stripes” fame) as Elvis Presley. God knows who thought that one up.
The best part of the film for me was the surprisingly well-written songs. My favourite has got to be the innuendo-laden “Let’s Duet” where Cox sings to Darlene Madison (an obvious June Carter character) featuring the lines “In my dreams you’re blowin’ me…some kisses” which got a huge laugh from me. Even though the film is funny, I get the feeling they could have done more with it. “Walk Hard” makes some brilliant and shrewd observations about the biopic genre, but never takes them to a higher level. It’s like they stacked piles of dynamite under the bloated biopic, but wussed out at the last minute when it came to lighting the fuse. As I said, “Walk Hard” is still very funny, but because of this- it doesn’t achieve “Spinal Tap” levels of greatness.