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With: John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Raymond J. Barry, Margo Martindale, Kristen Wiig, Tim Meadows, Chris Parnell, David Krumholtz, Harold Ramis, John Michael Higgins, Frankie Muniz, Jack White, Eddie Vedder, Jackson Browne, Jewel Kilcher, Ghostface Killah, Lyle Lovett, The Temptations, Jack Black, Justin Long, Paul Rudd, Jason Schwartzman
Written by: Judd Apatow, Jake Kasdan
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language
Running Time: 96
Date: 12/21/2007

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

At some point between all the awards and glitter and speeches, the Showbiz Biopic became a genre, one that re-used the exact same conventions from film to film. Ray (2004) and Walk the Line (2005), not to mention this year's La vie en rose, Control and El Cantante, are, in essence, the same movie, but decorated with different actors and different songs. Thankfully, the one-man comedy factory Judd Apatow and official "Frat Pack" member John C. Reilly, noticed. Together with director Jake Kasdan, they have created a sharp parody worthy of MAD Magazine. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story runs through every tired showbiz biopic plot point with a shiny new skewer.

In the biopic, every major event in the artist's life is treated as an epiphany, as if he could sense the importance of this moment of origin. Walk Hard underlines and exaggerates these moments; it's especially daring given that, since we've never actually heard of the country-rock singer Dewey Cox, these moments work. The many celebrity "cameos" use the same kind of logic to hilarious effect. The movie never misses a note; it ridicules age makeup (Reilly plays ages 14 to 72 and every so often has to speak his current age aloud, just to remind us) and all the typical rock history stuff. Dewey "earns" his fame via the talent of black musicians and goes through every musical stage: drugs, folk music, experimental music, a variety TV show, and the "comeback." The brilliantly crafted songs fall just on one side of seriousness. As in This Is Spinal Tap, they could actually be real, and their humor is almost accidental.

Taking a cue from Walk the Line, duet signer Darlene (Jenna Fischer) remains Dewey's true love throughout. But the problem with "Walk Hard" is that we don't really care about their relationship. The parody takes precedence over any kind of emotional truth. Ironically, though Reilly gives a sterling performance throughout, his only way of truly connecting with the audience is through the character he's playing and the biopic formula itself. It very nearly becomes the thing it's ridiculing. Happily, the movie is cunning enough to step back just enough to remain funny, and though it won't hold up to multiple viewings, it happily stabs at a sacred cow that has needed stabbing for years.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

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