Saturday, January 9, 2010

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Year 2, Day 8 - 1/8/10 - Movie #373

BEFORE: How often do I get to watch a spoof film, right after the film that it's spoofing? (Usually, it seems it's the other way around...) After watching musical bio-pics all week, not only have I determined that the genre needs spoofing, but I've also turned myself into an expert on them, and thus I'm this film's target audience!

THE PLOT: Singer Dewey Cox overcomes adversity to become a musical legend.

AFTER: It's nice when a movie doesn't take itself too seriously - and sometimes it's nice when a movie isn't serious at all. The first half of this film is a perfect parody of "Walk the Line", down to the childhood accident that kills Dewey Cox's brother (with a comic twist, of course) and robs him of a vital sense (smell, as a parody of Ray Charles' blindness).

John C. Reilly plays Dewey Cox from age 14 (which is hilarious, since the actor is obviously over 40) to age 71, with all the trials, tribulations and trips to rehab in between. We see his relationship with his first wife (Kristen Wiig) who stays at home to raise about a dozen babies while Dewey's out on tour, and with Darlene Madison (Jenna Fischer) who starts out as his singing partner but becomes his 2nd wife. Dewey, of course, "forgot" to divorce the first wife before marrying the second one...

The problem is, once Johnny Cash got off the pills and married June Carter, his own biopic sort of found him to be not so interesting, and skipped over about 35 years leading up to his death. This left "Walk Hard" with no material to parody for Dewey's later years, so the movie takes sort of a left turn midway through. Dewey becomes a folk singer in the style of Bob Dylan, becomes an activist for the rights of midgets, goes to India to get high with the Beatles, and hosts a TV variety show in the 1970's.

Actually, I kind of liked the scene with the Beatles because it's such a blatant parody - it's someone's twisted impression of how the Beatles talked to each other, with George talking about his guitar "gently whimpering" and McCartney referring to himself in the third person, so we'll all know who he's supposed to be. The actors who cameoed as the Beatles were not listed in the credits, but they were Jack Black as McCartney, Paul Rudd as Lennon, Jason Schwarzman as Ringo, and my buddy Justin Long as Harrison. For me, this scene made the movie worth watching.

The movie ends with a poke at the "elder statesman" treatment that some of the older rock singers tend to get - Dewey's career heats up again when a rapper samples one of his old songs, and he's coaxed out of retirement with the promise of a "Lifetime Achievement Award" (from who? MTV? The Rock + Roll Hall of Fame?) so we get to hear his signature song performed by Jackson Browne, Jewel and Lyle Lovett, with a rambling introduction by Eddie Vedder.

I chuckled a lot, and laughed out loud a few times, but I think this was largely due to having watched "Walk the Line" the night before. If I had watched this movie first, it probably wouldn't have been quite as funny.

Also starring Tim Meadows and Chris Parnell as members of Dewey's band, David Krumholtz as his manager (Hey, he was the manager in "Ray", too!), with cameos by Harold Ramis, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Jonah Hill, Jack McBrayer (Kenneth from "30 Rock"), Ed Helms and Craig Robinson (from "The Office"), Frankie Muniz (as Buddy Holly!) and Jack White from the White Stripes (as Elvis Presley!) Whew!

RATING: 7 out of 10 broken sinks

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