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Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 4/8/2008

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/13/2008

When one has a realization, it usually comes in one of two ways. It can come quite suddenly, such as "Oh God! I'm allergic to shellfish!" Or, it can be something which grows over time. I've seen several of his movies, and I've come to the conclusion that I'm not a Judd Apatow fan. Despite the fact that everyone seems to love the movies with which he's involved and feels that anyone he touches will become comedy gold, I haven't been overwhelmed by the movies (save for those directed by Adam McKay). These misgivings aside, I'm still intrigued by Apatow's films because of the actors that he gathers for his projects -- thus, I'm willing to give them a chance. Such is the case with Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, which has a fantastic cast...but very few laughs.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is a (fake) biopic which tells the story of legendary musician Dewey Cox. The film opens in the 1940s, where we see young Dewey (Conner Rayburn) growing up on a farm with his family. He accidentally kills his brother Nate (Chip Hormess) (who is a piano prodigy) with a machete, and his father can't forgive him for this. The movie then jumps ahead a few years, and we see Dewey (John C. Reilly) as a teenager performing with a singing group. His father shuns this idea, so Dewey leaves town with his girlfriend, Edith (Kristen Wiig). Dewey takes some odd jobs, but he eventually gets a chance to perform his music and he soon records a record, which becomes a hit. Despite this instant success, Edith refuses to believe in him. Dewey scores a national tour where he meets Darlene Madison (Jenna Fischer), with whom he instantly falls in love. In the midst of this, Dewey experiments with drugs and starts down a tumultuous path where he will alienate most of those around him. Through all of this, it's the music which continues to motivate Dewey.

Again, despite the fact that I didn't like The 40-Year Old Virgin or Knocked Up, I was excited about Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story because of those involved. The film was co-written and directed by Jake Kasdan and I'm apparently the only admirer of his film Orange County. The cast is absolutely filled with funny people and great cameos. John C. Reilly proved that he could do comedy in Talladega Nights, so the idea of him carrying a movie wasn't unappealing. However, all of the talent in front of the camera can't make up for the flat jokes in the movie.

To say that Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is completely unfunny would be a misnomer, but the movie is notably free of big laughs. This occurs for two reasons. First of all, the movie actually takes itself too seriously. While the movie draws influences from many musical biopics, it is basically spoofing the Johnny Cash bio Walk the Line (thus the title) and many of the important moments in Dewey Cox's life parallel those in Cash's life. The problem is that even while Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is making light of these tragedies, it's still presenting us with tragedies. So, even though we get jokes about the ideas that Dewey's brother and mother die and that his wife, who doesn't support his dream, is left at home with the kids, these jokes die a horrible death because the things which they are lampooning are a bit too solemn to be lampooned.

The second problem is in a similar vein. By directly spoofing Walk the Line, as well as films like Ray and Great Balls of Fire, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story doesn't present itself as an original story, such as Talladega Nights or Anchorman. It is simply spoofing pre-existing films. In that light, it places itself in the same league with the likes of Epic Movie and Date Movie. Granted, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is 1000 times better than those movies, but it is basically doing the same thing that the do by taking a an existing scene from a movie and then adding a joke to it. This comes off as very lazy writing. For example, there's a scene in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story which parallels a scene in Walk the Line where Johnny Cash announces that he's leaving his wife. In Walk Hard the difference is that Dewey demands to take a monkey with him. Is that funny?

Talladega Nights and Anchorman are both great movies which take their ideas from reality and then twist them into some very weird and obtuse humor. I can remember that with both of those movies that it wasn't until a few days after I saw them that the jokes truly began to coalesce. As I watched Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and found myself not laughing, I wondered if this movie would have a similar effect. Unfortunately, it didn't. If anything, I found myself humming the catchy tunes from the movie, but remembering few of the jokes (save for one at the end which had me crying). Making a spoof of Walk the Line certainly seems like a good idea, but Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story simply never finds its rhythm. John C. Reilly is certainly game and throws himself into the role, but it’s all for naught, as the movie goes out of tune very quickly and never recovers.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story rocks out on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in two separate releases -- one containing only the R-rated theatrical cut and a 2-disc set which has both the theatrical cut and the unrated cut which runs some 24 minutes longer. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer looks very good, as the image is very sharp and clear. It shows no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, especially those which arrive during Dewey’s psychedelic period. The image is never overly dark or bright. There is no distracting video noise here, or noteworthy artifacting. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The in-film music sounds very good, as it fills the speaker and the low-notes of “Walk Hard” sound great. The stereo effects are fine and we get some nice surround sound effects from the concert crowds.

The Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story 2-disc set contains several extra features. Disc 1 offers an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Director Jake Kasdan, co-writer/producer Judd Apatow, actor John C. Reilly, and executive producer Lew Morton. This is a pretty good commentary, as this funny group keeps the jokes coming during their chat. This isn’t a very technical commentary (I don’t remember a single location being mentioned), but they do talk about the story and the actors. They also discuss the specific parts of other films which they wanted to skewer. The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 2. The DVD features 16 "Full Song Performances" (42 minutes) which offers full-length versions of the songs which are often seen as only snippets in the movie. There are 10 DELETED & EXTENDED SCENES which run about 20 minutes. There is some interesting new material here, notably a different "bad trip" and a new visit from the older Nate, but the extended scenes don't offer any truly new material. "Line-O-Rama" (6 minutes) is a series of improvised lines from various scenes. "A Christmas Song from Dewey Cox" (3 minutes) is simply a video for a Christmas song not seen in the film (this was probably a promo thingy). "Cox Sausage Commercial with Outtakes" (2 minutes) shows Dewey blowing the lines on his ad. "Song Demos" features 14 early versions of the songs from the film performed by various artists. "Tyler Nilson: A Cockumentary" (6 minutes) is an odd look at the casting of the actor who goes full-frontal in the movie...including an interview with his penis. (I wish I was making that up.) "Bull on the Loose" (4 minutes) examines the scenes in which young Dewey and Nate play with a bull. "The Music of Walk Hard" (17 minutes) contains interviews with the filmmakers and the musicians who worked on the film. We get a lot of behind-the-scenes footage of Reilly performing songs. "The Making of Walk Hard" (15 minutes) contains comments from Kasdan and Apatow as they discuss the origin of the film. We then get quotes from the actors as they talk about their characters. There is then a discussion of the music. "The Real Dewey Cox" (14 minutes) is a mockumentary in which real-life musicians comment about how Dewey Cox influenced their careers. "The Last Word with John Hodgman" (26 minutes) is a fake talk show which features an interview with Dewey Cox.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long