Saturday, October 18, 2008

Flashback Review! Walk Hard

Tim and I were looking for something to watch on On Demand, and he decided on Walk Hard. I kept referring to my review when we talked about it, and I thought, "Hey, I should share this on the blog." So, I dug into my archives and found the review I wrote for Critics Rant. Enjoy!

The sophomoric comedy will never die. There are great ones like Animal House. There are horrible ones like Dumb and Dumberer. And there are those that fall a bit in between. I think that’s Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. I can’t really say, though, because I’m still trying to wrap my brain around this mock biopic.

From the first moment of the movie, I thought I knew exactly what I was in store for. A stage manager runs around backstage looking for Mr. Cox. “I need Cox. Where’s Cox?” (Haha. Funny.) When he finds the singer, he’s leaning against a wall in a dark hallway ala Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line. Then Tim Meadows pops up, and in his always perfect deadpan voice says, “Dewey Cox has to think about his whole life before he performs.” I was actually surprised when there was no generic dream-blur transition.

From here, we learn the life story of Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly). Starting back when he was a little boy and accidentally killed his older, "perfect" brother Nate. At 14, Dewey plays in front of his first audience. His music is a hit with the kids but the adults think it’s the devil’s music. His father, after saying, “The wrong kid died,” (for the second but definitely not the last time) kicks 14-year-old Dewey out of the house. So Dewey, along with his 12-year-old girlfriend Edith (Kristen Wiig), move out and start a life of their own.

After having more children than anyone should (I think the final count is 22), Edith finally comes to her senses and leaves Dewey when she finds him in bed with his new wife Darlene (Jenna Fischer), whom he married just because he wanted to sleep with her.

Dewey, depressed and unlucky in love, spends time in jail and then rehab. Neither helps because he just goes right back on the drugs when he spends some time in India tripping on LSD with the Beatles.

Side note: Jack Black is the worst Paul McCartney I’ve ever seen. Even if he isn’t trying to really be Paul, it doesn’t work. On the other hand, Adam Sandburg does the most impeccable George Harrison impression I’ve ever seen. Though, really, how many George Harrison impressions have I seen? Back to the story.

So! After his LSD trip, Dewey makes some horrible music, loses Darlene and his band mates, and gives up on music all together. Eventually, when he’s 71, we come back to the present, and see him perform his farewell song.

For the most part, Walk Hard is hilarious. The songs are catchy and the best written jokes in the entire movie. Edith’s insistence that Dewey will never make it, even though he’s got hit after hit, is funny. Remembering that Wiig and Reilly are playing teenagers is hilarious.

And there’s Tim Meadows. No matter if it a great joke or a crappy one, his delivery made me laugh out loud every time.

There are some overly cheesy, on-the-nose moments that work only because of the actors. Then there are some overly cheesy, on-the-nose moments that fall so flat that I can’t believe they stayed off the cutting room floor. I have the same feelings about the jokes. It’s really OK to have a couple of running jokes through your movie, but there is such thing as overkill. Pa Cox’s (Raymond J. Barry) favorite thing to say is, “The wrong kid died,” but after about the sixth time he utters it, I’m over it. The same goes for Dewey constantly pulling sinks out of the wall. Really, it’s only funny twice.

John C. Reilly, as always, is amazing. Even when the material is sub par, he seems to make it work. Jenna Fischer blows me away. I’ve always loved her as Pam on "The Office," but I’ve never seen her like this. She plays the seemingly innocent sex kitten Darlene to a tee.

The music is wonderful. Each song is catchy and littered with innuendo or a set up for a later joke. The best song is “Let’s Duet” with Dewey and Darlene. It’s sophomoric, yes, but it’s still damn entertaining.

The cameos read like a SNL call sheet crossed with Judd Apatow’s favorites sprinkled with a little Christopher Guest regulars. Everyone from Jonah Hill to Jayne Lynch to Frankie Muniz is in this movie. So if you’ve gotten to a part where it starts to lag, play the “who is that guy” game and you can keep yourself entertained until the movie’s funny again.

Even though I enjoyed Walk Hard, my biggest complaint is that it isn’t consistent. When it’s funny, it’s friggin’ hilarious. When it’s not, I’m checking my watch.

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