December 22, 2007

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

B.J. and the Bear - The Movie

Grade: B +
Starring: John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Raymond J. Barry, Kristen Wiig, and Tim Meadows
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

It’s an Apatow world, and we’re just living in it. The reigning cinematic comedy king’s third film produced in 2007, which he also co-writes with director Jake Kasdan (Orange County), is his most satirical and, at just over 90 minutes, probably his most streamlined.

John C. Reilly, always reliable and usually a groomsman, finally gets to headline in this biting parody that principally posits itself as a farcical take on the Johnny Cash biopic, Walk the Line. This first-half is funny enough, but the film really clicks once its focus shifts toward a broader lampoon of the music industry and American social history, starting with Dewey (Reilly) in his Dylan-esque protest period (filmed as a black & white riff on Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back) and continuing through a sojounrn to India for mediation and dropping acid with the Beatles, his Brian Wilson SMiLE period, a cheesy 70s TV variety show, and finally watching his old hits being sampled by contemporary rap artists, which naturally paves the way for the climactic Lifetime Achievement Tribute Performance™.

The array of supporting appearances alone is worth the price of admission. Harold Ramis leads a consortium of Hasidic record producers; Frankie Muniz as Buddy Holly; The White Stripes' Jack White as Elvis; The Beatles are played by Jack Black (Paul), Paul Rudd (John), Justin Long (George), and Jason Schwartzman (Ringo); Eddie Vedder gives Dewey an incomprehensible, Bono-style intro at the tribute special, during which Dewey's signature song, "Walk Hard," is covered by a quartet of Lyle Lovett, Jewel, Jackson Browne, and...Ghostface Killah? And, naturally, there is the obligatory, uncredited Jonah Hill cameo.

Mostly, however, this film belongs to Reilly, who sings, cracks wise, runs through the street nearly naked, and does yeoman’s work in this spotty, but mostly screamingly funny satire.

Neil Morris

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