Saturday, December 22, 2007

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story Review

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox story directed by Jake Kasdan and cowritten by Kasdan and Judd Apatow is like a professional wrestling event. John C. Reilly is the big star meant to "draw" the crowds and who will ultimately be "put over" by the movie as part of his resume, but it's the supporting cast you remember most when leaving the theater. I went into this movie expecting Will Ferrell, who I admittedly do not like, type fare and secretly hoping that Apatow's influence would shine through. Both my expectations and hopes were met.

The story of Dewey Cox is both uninteresting and unnecessary. Most of the movie it felt as if the "story" was strung along as a reason to transition from one joke to the next. A large part of the movie is parodying decades and the genres of music they spawned and it often felt as if Cox's story was little more than a framework for these send ups. Attempts at exposition were sandwiched in between scathing musical numbers (the most notable being a 60s protest song in favor of midgets) creating a tone for the movie that left me wondering if Kasdan wanted to parody music itself or VH1 Behind the music type shows. The performance of the star may have been limited by this duplicity.

Reilly puts in an able performance, though plays little more than caretaker of the movie. It is as if he was intended to be the David Garrad of this Jacksonville Jaguars comedy and just hand the ball to his star running backs without screwing up. In other words, he often acted as the set up man, delivering few punchlines of his own. Scenes were stolen by the other characters. For instance, Jenna Fischer turns in a strong performance as Darlene Madison and Jane Lynch completely controls her scene, creating a character similar to her Paula in the 40 Year Old Virgin. It is among these backup players that the strength of the movie is found.

Amidst all this confusion, Apatow steps in and delivers his fledgling brand of comedy. His vulgarity creeps into scenes (be on the lookout for frontal male nudity) and his entourage steals the show, stepping into center stage in what were by far the best two scenes. Jack Black, Paul Rudd, Jason Schwartzman, and Justin Long were hysterical as the Beatles. I won't tell you who is who, but I will say, after this movie and the Superbad DVD extras, I had no idea Long was such a good impressionist. Jonah Hill also utterly owns a scene with one of his trademark rants.

While its shortcomings make it sometimes hard to stay with, Walk Hard is entertaining. It is in no way comparable to The 40 Year Old Virgin or Knocked Up, but it's not trying to be. Where those films try to maintain a thread of realism, this comedy rams reality with Cox, cutting it in half and strumming a guitar over its remains.

3/5 Stars

No comments: