Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Lowdown: A parody on all legend stories.
I like John C. Reilly, I really do. I thought he was excellent in Magnolia and I thought he did a good job of playing the dumb boyfriend in The Good Girl. I even thought he did a fine job in Talladega Nights. Nothing, however, prepared me for his performance in Walk Hard. How can I best put it? The guy made me piss my pants laughing.
Walk Hard tells the story of Dewey Cox, a musician flashbacking through his entire life before each of his performances. The majority of the film is one of those flashbacks.
We join Dewey as a little child in a very country bumpkin environment somewhere in southern USA during the fifties. Back then, Dewey is overshadowed by his child brother, who is talented in pretty much everything he does. One pivotal day the two go on playing with machetes for fun when the unthinkable happens and Dewey cuts his little brother in half. Before he dies, the now half brother makes Dewey promise he will grow to be as good as the two of them combined, thus providing the flame to Dewey’s inspiration.
Dewey’s life is not easy, though. His father is convinced the wrong kid died and his girlfriend tells him he will never get anywhere. Through his love for rock music Dewey is kicked from home at the age of 14, and within a year he has himself several babies and an opportunity to set his career as a musician off. Still, wherever he goes and whatever he does, he still has to fight the demon of his father and his partner telling him he will never be up to any good. Through walking hard, though, Dewey does good.
So far the plot’s description makes Walk Hard sound like a bit of a whacky take on that common rock star against all odds rising to fame story, and if you think this is the case here you’d be right. The trick is in the whacky element: Walk Hard does its best to mock all those classic stories it builds on. Indeed, mocking it does in pretty unconventional ways. Walk Hard is not afraid to offend, walking on a tight borderline with its racial innuendos; Walk Hard is not afraid to acquire the wrath of the censor, sporting lots of nudity and completely redundant male nudity in particular; and Walk Hard is not afraid to tread on sacred cows, with its portrayal of an unintelligible Elvis (acted very well by Jack White) as an example. Anything we take for granted Walk Hard has a go at: take, for example, the way it jokes about drug use and about artists so called “experimentation with drugs”.
The laughs come often and come loudly with Walk Hard, starting from all the previously mentioned and moving on, with the aid of a long line of cameos, through to music and musical encounters. Some of Dewey Cox’ lyrics sound as if they came directly from a Benny Hill script, others copy the likes of Roy Orbison or Bob Dylan (with lyrics that are totally meaningless but are deep, man!). Dewey Cox also has his moments of personal history when he meets the meditating Beatles in India.
In short, Walk Hard is everywhere, and it works!
The only problem I can report with Walk Hard is that it sags a bit in the middle. You start with roaring laughs and you end with roars to match, but about half way through the film is just a bit overstretched. That, however, may be explained by us not watching Walk Hard’s original hour and a half or so presentation but rather the optional version described on the Blu-ray disc as “American Cox: The Unbearably Long, Self-Indulgent Director's Cut”. At two hours long, this version is probably overlong, although one cannot complain about not being warned in advance.
Ultimately, Walk Hard left us wanting. Wanting hard to see Walk the Line, the film that obviously inspired a lot of Walk Hard’s gems.
Best scene: There are so many laugh out loud moments in Walk Hard it’s really hard to pick a winner. My vote goes for Mazeltov and L’Chaim, the two orthodox Jews that discover Cox in an black people’s erotic dancing club. Everyone knows Jews are in control of the music business, and Rabbi L’Chaim (played by Harold Ramis, director of Groundhog Day) is proof.
Picture quality: Some inconsistent colors, with a rather reddish look too dominating the scene.
Sound quality: Walk Hard is full of Dewey Cox’ musical performances which seem to be performed by Reilly himself all the way. The thing about Cox’ songs, though, is that they’re damn good! Sure, they’re heavily influenced by the music of those the film mocks and the lyrics are quite out of this world, but then again the originals weren’t much better; at least the Cox version makes you laugh as you listen. The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack on this Blu-ray title does an excellent job at delivering the music to you in a manner that does justice to the excellent performance at hand; so good I can’t get the title track out of my head.
Overall: Since Stardust I don’t recall a movie I wanted to watch again and again the way I do with Walk Hard. Walk Hard is a 3.5 star film: films like it that laugh at the work of others rather than create something new of their own are limited in scope. However, Walk Hard breaks genre boundaries and breaks completely new ground in the field of satire; it is so fucking good (and hard) I’m giving it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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