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STUDIO: Sony Pictures
RUNNING TIME: 216 Minutes
- Deleted & Extended Scenes
- 8 Full Song Performances
- The Music of Walk Hard
- The Real Dewey Cox
- Commentary with Jake Kasdan, Judd Apatow, John C. Reilly and Lew Morton
- Extended Footage Not Seen in Theaters
- More Deleted & Extended Scenes
- 8 Additional Full Song Performances
- A Christmas Song From Dewey Cox
- Cox Sausage Commercial with Outtakes
- Song Demos
- The Making of Walk Hard
- The Last Word with John Hodgman
- And More!
Music biopics now have their Airplane!.
Directed by Jake Kasdan
Written by Jake Kasdan and Judd Apatow
Starring John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Tim Meadows, Kristen Wiig, Matt Besser, Chris Parnell, and countless others
Walk Hard chronicles the rise, fall, rise, fall, rise, and fall of famed musician Dewey Cox. It follows him from his humble country upbringing where tragedy led him down a road of creative discovery as an outlet for his pain, to the top of the charts as he rode the crest of the cultural zeitgeist wave to its peak. It also follows his numerous drug relapses and how they influenced his career decisions up to his unfortunate passing in 2007. The movie stands as a true testament to one of the great forgotten musicians of our time.
Sooner or later, you knew the Apatow brand would have its first financial non-starter. It’s unfortunate that it had to be this instead of the intensely mediocre Drillbit Taylor from this year, but Walk Hard was the first movie to not connect with the mainstream in any discernable way. Which is bizarre, as it’s perhaps the most straightforward comedy the Apatow brand had made up until that point. The broad parody genre can be tough sledding, especially currently where parody seems to mean “take entire sequences from other movies or pop culture and either insert them or edit them to add falling down or getting hit in the dick” instead of actual comedic effort, but credit must be given to Apatow and Jake Kasdan for writing a truly funny and incisive mutilation of the music biopic.
It speaks well to a parody that by its end you feel like there’s no need to continue down that genre’s road, as all of its guts have been exposed and the tricks of the trade have now been subverted and used for the purposes of laughter. It also should be noted that even though this movie completely skewers the absurdity of trying to condense a complicated human life into simple three-act structure with a definitive message, it isn’t necessary that one be overly familiar with the musical biopics that came before it, even if this knowledge would enhance the comedy of what you’re seeing on screen.*
The whole movie rests on John C. Reilly’s shoulders, and it’s his first comedy starring vehicle after proving himself to be a lethal weapon doing support work for so many years, and it’s awesome to see him absolutely destroy the role with zest. If you don’t believe in Dewey Cox, then the journey won’t be for shit, but Reilly has the ability to play the character immensely broad without losing his humanity. This is a great performance, and one that will go off as unheralded as it’s encased within a movie as deeply silly as this one. It also helped by Reilly being surrounded with a truly deadly assemblage of talent, and a large amount of them are given some great business to do here.
As Dewey’s band, I would have loved to see a little more for the Upright Citizen Brigade’s Matt Besser and SNL’s Chris Parnell to do, but it’s wonderful to see Tim Meadows shine on the big stage (Dewey’s introduction to drugs is going to be essential comedy viewing in the coming years). And for once, the women are given great bits to work with to, as both Jenna Fischer and Kristen Wiig are allowed to be funny instead of simply the female love interests of the film. And the parade of cameos are hilarious both conceptually (I never tired of bands or musicians being referred to by their entire name repeatedly in casual conversation) and in practice, with the obvious example being the showstopping Beatles sequence. But also deserving mention is John Michael Higgins who comes into the film and absolutely understands the convention he is undermining and sets the film on the right course for the rest of the way.
It also does the film a great service that the music is great without falling too heavily into the realm of parody or overt jokiness. For the most part, the songs exist as solid examples of the genre and era they came from. Only the Bob Dylan parody “Royal Jelly” and “Let’s Duet” really cross that line but the former is justified in the movie as being a rip-off of Dylan whereas the latter is just trying to push the line of double entendre just a smidgen beyond its breaking point so it doesn’t damage the film’s reality at all, and has the best one-liner of any song in the entire movie. Credit also has to go to Kasdan’s direction throughout, which affectionately gets each era the film is trying to emulate without making it feel overtly parodic. He does make references to films of biopic past with his style, but he does so without compromising the film’s sense of self and allowing it to still exist as its own object without being a dull cavalcade of referents to that which came before. Also, the final song of the film reaches an emotional plateau (which is ridiculous, given the joke that’s interspersed throughout it) with a genuinely lovely final set of shots. Big ups to him for the work he does here.
It isn’t by any means perfect: the beginning of the film is funnier in concept than execution (the ‘halving’ doesn’t work in the cartoonish context it’s put into) and doesn’t really start to gel until John C. Reilly shows up, and Jonah Hill’s character just doesn’t feel like part of the world established by all of the other actors and sticks out like a sore thumb because of it. But all these little missteps do is knock it down from ‘comedy masterpiece’ to ‘really good, bordering on great comedy’. If you didn’t give it a chance in theaters (judging by the box office receipts, not many did), give it a shot on DVD, if only for a massive performance from John C. Reilly. You won’t be disappointed.
The cover art isn’t particularly inspiring (I would have hoped the ‘For Your Consideration’ ad would’ve somehow being integrated into the packaging – http://www.iwatchstuff.com/2007/11/walk_hard_oscar_ad_references.php), but it’s suitable Reilly-centric. In terms of extras, you will get no more comprehensive a collection of special features than this 2-disc collection has to offer, continuing the Apatow tradition of absolutely stacked special editions that never leave the fan wanting for more. And in a nice change of pace, the theatrical and director’s cut are both in the set, instead of separate discs for each (this is big for me, someone who hated that the little changes in Anchorman and Talledega Nights in their “Unrated, yeah!” iterations).
And ‘the unbearably long, self-indulgent director’s cut’ does live up to its name, not really adding anything in terms of laughs and only becoming bloated in the process, save for one amazing sight gag during his Brian Wilson phase that should’ve made into the finished product. Then there’s the usual gamut of Apatow-production extras (Line-O-Rama, deleted/extended scenes, sketches masquerading as featurettes, commentary), the point being, this thing is completely stacked. And what’s more, CHUD gets name-dropped in the commentary. We’re famous, bitches! If you found the movie amusing at all (which you should’ve unless you’re taste deficient) this set will more than satisfy your thirst for Cox.
8.5 out of 10
*John C. playing Dewey from the age of fourteen on is hilarious even without knowledge of Kevin Spacey playing Bobby Darin in his twenties despite having lapped that by the point in his career when he played him.
The real reason for Jeremy “Mr. Beaks” Smith’s departure: to pursue his dream of faceless cockery on the big screen.