Hey, bay-buh! There’s a whole lot of funny goin’ on in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. It’s got sex and drugs and Elvis and giraffes and Members Only jackets.
Jake Kasdan directs an outrageously funny sketch-comedy collection of music-movie parodies he co-wrote with Judd Knocked Up Apatow. Walk Hard begins down in Springberry, Alabama in 1946, where young Dewey’s supremely gifted, much-loved prodigy of a brother begins a picture-perfect day by saying nothing horrible could possibly happen to him. A hugely funny scene is coming that sets the tone for a brilliant first half.
John C. Reilly starts playing Dewey as a 14-year-old at a talent show where his stupendously inoffensive light pop sounds cause women to tear their shirts off and men to start carrying signs reading, “Satan Music,” all within about 30 seconds. Soon Dewey has hisself a wife (Kristen Wiig of “SNL”) and a kid, but he still has a dream. So does the wife, but as Dewey tells her, “I can’t build you a candy house.” It would melt in the sun.
The movie will make it pretty much impossible for anyone who sees it to ever watch Ray or Walk the Line again, which is probably all to the good. “Walk Hard” is at its best when it’s ripping apart a specific personality or movie rather than just lapsing into silliness, as it often does–Reilly has enough tighty-whitey scenes to rival the entire screen history of Will Ferrell’s jockey-shorts romps. Maybe the highlight is a sequence in the middle where Dewey thinks he’s Bob Dylan and decides to sing about “Justice–for women and midgets and such.”
A Beatles parody–featuring Paul Rudd as a reedy John Lennon and Jack Black doing possibly the worst Paul McCartney imitation since Davy Jones of The Monkees–is solid also, complete with a trippy animated interlude out of “Yellow Submarine.”
But as Dewey moves into the 70s (after pulling some Brian Wilson insanity-he spends four days on a trampoline and months crafting his next studio masterpiece–“open your mind and learn to play the f–kin’ theremin!”) the script loses some focus. The disco era brings some soft jabs at hokey variety shows and newsmagazine interviews, neither of which is worth making fun of in the first place. There are a couple of dead spots.
After a few mandatory breakdowns, though–poor Dewey gets so crazed he saws his own couch in half, and then bends all his spoons–Dewey is ready for a comeback. With the support of the cowgirl saint (a foxed-up Jenna Fischer) who stole him from his wife, along with the many hues of those Member’s Only jackets, Dewey is on the charts again thanks to the rapper who samples his staple hit, “Walk Hard” (which, like most of the numbers here, is actually a pretty good song, though with goofy lyrics).
Now all that remains is for Dewey to do a comeback special featuring Jewel, Lyle Lovett and Jackson Browne covering his big hit, introduced by the standard incredibly pretentious rock-genius speech. Who better to deliver it than Eddie Vedder, who calls Dewey “the problem child, the white Indian, the giant midget”?
Things are going so well that forgotten are the days when Dewey, after a drug bust, after cheatin’ on his woman and his other woman, after bad hairstyles and worse rehearsals, looked directly at the camera and screamed, “God damn it! This is a dark f–kin’ period!”
95 minutes/R (nudity, sexual content, profanity, drug abuse)
Kyle Smith is a film critic for the the New York Post. His website is at www.kylesmithonline.com.