Cast: John C. Reilly as Dewey Cox Jenna Fischer as Darlene Madison Raymond J. Barry as Pa Cox Margo Martindale as Ma Cox Kristen Wiig as Edith Chip Hormess as Nate Conner Rayburn as Dewey (Age 8) Tim Meadows as Sam Chris Parnell as Theo Matt Besser as Dave David Krumholtz as Schwartzberg Harold Ramis as L’Chai’m Phil Rosenthal as Mazeltov Frankie Muniz as Buddy Holly Eddie Vedder as Himself Jackson Browne as Himself Jewel Kilcher as Herself Ghostface Killah as Himself Lyle Lovett as Himself Jack Black as Paul McCartney Justin Long as George Harrison Paul Rudd as John Lennon Jason Schwartzman as Ringo Starr Jonah Hill as Nate
Summary: John C. Reilly delivers a great performance in “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.” Fun music and amusing cameos also make it enjoyable. But there are some long stretches without big laughs and if you’ve never seen a musical biopic, this will fall utterly flat for you.
Story: “Walk Hard” tells the story of legendary singer Dewey Cox. Raised on a farm with his gifted brother, Dewey’s life was changed forever after accidentally cutting his brother in half with a machete. The trauma led him to discover a life of music, but forever estranged him from his father who declared, “The wrong kid died!”
Dewey eventually finds his lucky break and becomes a rock and roll sensation. Despite having all his dreams come true, he leads a tortured life. Falling into drugs, sex, and punk rock, Dewey wanders aimlessly through life until he meets Darlene Madison. But can even she save him from his inner demons?
“Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” is rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language.
What Worked: We all knew John C. Reilly could sing and do comedy, but he certainly proves it again as Dewey Cox. It’s the first time he’s really led a comedy on his own and he’s more than up to the challenge. He hilariously plays the character from age 14 (?!) to age 71 and all through his ups and downs, he’s lovable the entire time. He also has great on-screen chemistry with Jenna Fischer as Darlene Madison. Besides “The Office,” this is definitely her funniest role to date. Whether it’s physical comedy (like being wooed by Dewey) or delivering a funny line with a straight face, she’s never upstaged by Cox. Tim Meadows is also a standout as Sam. His constant warnings to Dewey about the dangers of drugs are pretty funny and are some of the highlights of the film.
The numerous cameos in “Walk Hard” are also a lot of fun. We’re treated to a scene with the Beatles that includes Jack Black as Paul McCartney, Justin Long as George Harrison, Paul Rudd as John Lennon, and Jason Schwartzman as Ringo Starr. Needless to say, their scene descends into violence and drug induced mayhem, much like the real Beatles. We also see Frankie Muniz as Buddy Holly and the real Temptations, Eddie Vedder, Jackson Browne, Jewel, and Lyle Lovett. “Office” fans should also get a kick out of not only seeing Jenna Fischer as Darlene but Ed Helms (Andy) as a stage manager and Craig Robinson (Darryl) actually performing on stage in a nightclub (for erotic dancing!). And don’t forget a great cameo by Jonah Hill as the ghost of Nate.
As you might expect, “Walk Hard” has a lot of good music in it. Not only do you get to hear the title song “Walk Hard” in a variety of styles (including ’50s rock, disco, and rap), but there are a number of other songs too. Some are serious, but most of them are filled with hilarious lyrics. A duet between Dewey and Darlene is filled with double entendres while Dewey’s “Bob Dylan” music was a particular standout for me. His song supporting the midget’s rights movement in the ’60s definitely was my favorite.
What Didn’t Work: I think my expectations hurt my enjoyment of “Walk Hard.” I went in expecting a Judd Apatow movie. They typically have rapid-fire jokes and a lot of improvised dialogue. Instead, this is more of a Jake Kasdan movie. That’s not a bad thing at all. It’s just different. Kasdan doesn’t seem to have as much improvisation and he’ll take his time to build up to a joke rather than going for the rapid-fire approach. “Walk Hard” ends up being somewhere between Kasdan’s “The TV Set” and Apatow’s “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” Since I had to shift my expectations halfway through this film, I think it affected my enjoyment a bit.
“Walk Hard” was also hurt by its trailers. They showed many of the funniest moments in the film. What’s left behind are jokes that generate more chuckles than out-loud laughs. In fact, I caught myself thinking, “Man, I haven’t laughed in a while” at numerous occasions while watching the movie. And you really have to have seen movies like “Ray,” “Walk the Line,” or other musical biopics in order to get the jokes. If you’ve never seen them, you have little hope of enjoying the parody in “Walk Hard.”
I also have to comment in the big nude scene in “Walk Hard.” I’m not real keen on seeing a 30ft penis on the big screen. Ugh.
The Bottom Line: “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” is good for some laughs, but you may not find it to be as laugh out-loud funny as you might be expecting.