Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story Review
Attempting to parody musician-related films ranging from Don't Look Back to Ray, but mostly thieving without reason from Walk the Line, the Jake Kasdan-directed fake biopic Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is a rambling joke of a movie. It's not funny, witty, or entertaining. There's not a single point while watching the film that the viewer feels any sense of logical reason as to why such an entirely poor aping of a movie made just two years earlier was necessary. We instead have an excuse for trotting out predictable and obvious cliches at the same time the movie pretends to be making fun of said formula conventions. While Walk Hard wants the audience to recognise how silly these kinds of films can be, again zeroing in on Walk the Line particularly, it falls into the exact same trap by copying the boring and obvious kind of bits found in the inexplicably fertile spoof genre.
How embarrassing it must be for Walk Hard to have not even earned half the box office gross of worthless fare like Date Movie, Epic Movie, and Meet the Spartans. Despite a higher budget, an Oscar nominee star and a cast full of familiar faces, this particular effort is almost as terrible as those notoriously bad movies. A good guess for why it failed to even meet that low standard in cinemas might be its more restrictive rating (watch out for that penis in your face Dewey!), but the lack of success can only be a positive sign. Any movie that mocks the actual death of Johnny Cash's brother while the two were still young boys really deserves as awful a fate as it can get. Of course, Walk Hard doesn't stop there. Cash's drug addiction, the dissolution of his first marriage, the difficult relationship with his father, etc. are all transformed into material for supposed comedy. In the process, Walk Hard completely forgets why people enjoy musical biopics in the first place.
Audiences like watching movie stars play iconic singers, and they like to hear the artist's popular songs, both of which translate into enjoyable, if safe, moviegoing experiences for a number of people. Being fictional, Dewey Cox obviously has no fans or followers, and his back catalog is fake and derivative. As Mr. Drippy Penises, John C. Reilly is hardly a movie star and rarely more than a low-rent Will Ferrell, whose stupid, arrogant manchild he's channeling in the same way he did in Talladega Nights. Reilly's obviously a good actor, proven by effective turns in films like Boogie Nights, Magnolia and Chicago, but this act is entirely stale. Comedy should be more fun for the audience than the performer. Reilly's Cox (groan) is completely uninteresting and a total caricature, like casting Ferrell in Walk the Line. He's fully committed to the character, but it's totally one-dimensional mugging. Legendary singers, whether it's Cash or Ray Charles or Bob Dylan, are given a certain amount of built-in leeway and curiosity that forgives bad behaviour as an exchange for producing brilliant music. To simply parody films about these people, in turn making fun of the persons themselves, misses the point. The absurdity and mass appeal of their situations help make movies like Walk the Line and Ray what they are, warts and all.
Walk the Line is mainstream silly because it has to be. It's not a film made for Cash completists. Biopics of extremely famous people must still appeal to audiences other than their fanbase or else they'd never get made. Such a concession requires more pedestrian storytelling, and scenes for the masses, regardless of how ripe for parody they may seem. For a spoof to have some scintilla of worth, it would have to realise why the formula works. Walk Hard never does, and instead thinks merely pointing out how repetitive and average these films are should be enough, without showing any inkling of creativity in depicting why they're formulaic. If Kasdan's film happened to be particularly accomplished in some other way or had a sense of what's funny to those not impressed by repeated dick jokes then perhaps some of the wrongheadedness could be overlooked, but it's not in the cards. Kasdan shows a total lack of flair in his direction, content to steal exact shots from Walk the Line in the name of parody, and his co-scripting of the screenplay with Judd Apatow is similarly lacking. The film goes from one incarnation of Dewey to another by mostly ridiculing the character's ineptitude. As it progresses past the clear send-ups of Walk the Line, Walk Hard goes from redundant to sloppy, mistaking wigs, make-up, and funny costumes for humour.
It almost makes the viewer appreciate the earlier parts of the movie, when even a tiny bit of effort was made to develop the character instead of zigzagging through the decades like a musical version of Woody Allen's Zelig. Almost. The most positive thing worth recommending about Walk Hard, still deserving of one-handed applause at best, is its tolerable ability to populate the movie with a near-endless supply of recognisable actors who at the very least keep your eyelids afloat. Aside from Reilly, Jenna Fischer (Pam from the American version of The Office) has the most notable role as the June Carter Cash/Reese Witherspoon stand-in. When she needs to act badly, she does, and when she should be convincing, she is. It's a capable performance in a film that's lacking much else worth celebrating. Similarly, borderline cameos abound, with everyone from Jack Black, Paul Rudd, Jason Schwartzman, and, most impressively, Justin Long as The Beatles to an actually very funny Jack White as Elvis Presley popping up in a brief karate chop of a scene. If there's any reason to watch this garbage, it's for these random appearances. Otherwise, it's going to take a couch full of friends and a sack full of alcohol to find much enjoyment here.
The film is presented on this R2 dual-layered PAL disc in its original 2.40:1 aspect ratio, enhanced in anamorphic widescreen. Video quality is as good as it should be, with no damage and acceptable detail, though it could have perhaps been slightly sharper in longer shots. Progressively transferred, the image is consistently strong, with some digital noise being a mild concern. It's a movie that frequently features a very dazzling colour palette, and the DVD transfer does well in reproducing that.
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track does an excellent job of balancing the dialogue-heavy scenes with the more bombastic musical performances. This is a fine effort in slightly raising the volume when the music gears up without going crazy. There are a number of song performances in the film, and the audio nicely rises to the occasion when necessary. The rear channels are rarely isolated, but come through clearly during the songs. Other language alternatives include an English Audio Descriptive Service track, Czech and Hungarian DD 5.1, and a Polish DD 2.0 option. Subtitles are white in colour and included in 22 different languages. (For the full list see sidebar.)
Walk Hard's R2 release will be a significant letdown for fans of the film (God bless their souls). Where R1 got multiple releases, including a two-disc version that had an extended cut of the movie, the only option Sony gave here was the one-disc edition that includes just the theatrical cut. This is most frustrating because the extra features, including the commentary and interviews, reference the longer version. And that fight scene with Patrick Duffy from the trailer? Not here. Neither is Dewey's third marriage to Cheryl Tiegs. Both are completely missing from the film and not included as deleted scenes, despite multiple mentions and clips on the disc. The commentary featuring director and co-writer Jake Kasdan, co-writer/producer Judd Apatow, John C. Reilly, and executive producer Lew Morton starts off with the aside that it will be the same track for the theatrical and the extended cut, though this is obviously irrelevant to those stuck with the shorter version.
Try as they might, the four gentlemen on the commentary failed to convince me that their movie was anything more than a deluded mess. It's more likely to please those who enjoyed Walk Hard, but the track does contain things of interest like production information, how hands-on Apatow was, and which male body part is arguably underexplored in American film (hint: it's the penis). Still, it would have been more interesting to hear these guys discuss the film after it crashed and burned at the box office instead of a few weeks before it opened. For those who'd prefer to read, the commentary is also subtitled in English and Dutch.
The remaining extras are a mixed bag that help demonstrate part of why the film failed. "The Real Dewey Cox" (14:06) is a fake look at the fictional musician and features interviews with several famous singers, including Sheryl Crow admitting she got into music because she "likes Cox." Yes, if you loved the penis jokes in the film, there's several more waiting to pop out at you here. In contrast to that little featurette, "The Music of Walk Hard" (16:38) is a real look at the songs in the film that's played with the same level of sincerity as the other piece. No one seems to see the irony in producing a DVD filled with basic extras that stick to a formula, the very things the movie was attempting to satirise. Instead, we get this extremely laudatory tribute to the songs and songwriters from the picture. There's nothing particularly wrong with the supplement, and the title tune is kind of catchy, but these two featurettes together illustrate the pervasive fakeness usually found in DVD extras.
Also among the bonus features are Full Song Performances of "Walk Hard" (2:42), "Guilty As Charged" (2:52), "Dear Mr. President" (1:46), "Starman" (3:28), "(You Make Me So) Hard" (2:43), and "Walk Hard" (All Star Band) (3:31). Deleted & Extended Scenes can be viewed one-by-one or consecutively and are "Drug Deal" (1:16), "Beatles" (4:23), and "Alternate Acid Trip" (2:04). A Line-O-Rama (6:09) bit shows alternate takes with different improvisations. Though the trailer for Walk Hard is not on here, other Sony titles like Vantage Point (1:11), 21 (2:09), and Superbad (1:49) are represented.