Friday, December 21, 2007

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

“It ain’t easy to walk to the top of a mountain. It’s a long hard walk, but I will walk hard.”

The collaboration between Jake Kasdan and Judd Apatow is a perfect parody of recent overly serious and sentimental music biopics like Walk the Line and Ray which examine the entire life of an artist with all the skill and depth of a Behind the Music special. The film follows Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly, who plays the character from the age of 14 to 71) who faces the tragic death of his brother to an unfortunate machete accident, the disapproval of his father (Raymond J. Barry), drugs, booze, and women, to become a legend.

Although it helps if you’ve seen the films this one parodies it’s not a necessity to get most of the jokes (though you will miss some of more subtle moments including specific shots and camera work). Reilly is terrific in a role that let’s him prove just what a great dumbass he can play. And, as he proved in A Prairie Home Companion (read that review), he can sing. It’s a combination of the music and sharp unrelenting wit that transforms this film from the regular mass produced parodies like the Scary Movie franchises, and moves into the elite company with This Is Spinal Tap and Airplane.

Aside from Reilly, there are several good supporting performances including Jenna Fischer and Kristen Wig as two of Dewey’s wives, and a damn fine performance by Tim Meadows (yes, Tim Meadows! Who knew he was even still alive!) who plays Dewey’s drummer, friend, and drug guru.

Although the film doesn’t keep the breakneck laugh-a-minute pace it starts out with all the way through, the many high-points more than make up for the scattered lows. Some of my favorites are Dewey and Darlene singing “Let’s Duet” which aside from being the best song of the year provides a perfect spoof of the genre, Tim Meadows opening line which sets up the endless parody of Walk the Line, the best marijuana scene captured on film in recent memory, a great scene between Dewey and the Beatles (Justin Long, Jack Black, Jason Schwartzman and Paul Rudd as funny as he’s ever been as John Lennon), and some hilarious word and music jokes (watch out for The Temptations and a joke about Dewey and an up and coming rap artist). Several jokes and gags (the sinks, the often repeated deadpan line of Dewey’s dad, the recurring drug introduction scenes) are repeated but somehow they are funny each time, and I never became tired of them. As parody the film frees itself to step on a joke or two to make its point, but also finds more than enough big laughs to fill its relatively short running time of an hour and a half.

The film isn’t for everyone, and there are scenes I’m sure some will no doubt take offense, but in terms of comedy it’s a gut buster of a comedy which relies more on brains than gross-out humor. The only other film from this year that made me laugh harder than Walk Hard was the terrific British farce Death at a Funeral (read that review), so I’m pretty comfortable naming Walk Hard: The Dewy Cox Story the best American comedy of 2007. Get on your feet and walk to the nearest theater. Walk Hard.

No comments: