Walk Hard The Dewy Cox Story movie poster
Columbia
2007
R

“This is crazy, Dewey. Ain’t nobody gonna wanna listen to music like this. You’re standing there, playing as fast as you can, singing like some sort of punk!”

  • One of the most iconic figures in rock history, Dewey Cox had it all: the women (over 400 served), the friends (Elvis, The Beatles), and the rock n’ roll lifestyle (a close and personal relationship with every pill and powder known to man). But most of all, he had the music that transformed a dimwitted country boy into the greatest American rock star who never lived.

Something seems to have happened to the satirical comedy movie genre. Some time in the turn of the 21st Century, somehow the comedy movies that were spoofing other areas of pop culture were getting lazy, going more the zany route than actually well-crafted tongue-in-cheek spoof. Take, for instance, the classic Airplane!, and compare that to the likes of Epic Movie. Yeah, see the difference? Now, I’m not saying that every spoof comedy movie made in the 80s and 90s was comedy gold; but even the worst ones from that era (*cough* Spy Hard *cough*) had more meat to them than a lot of these dime-a-dozen blockbuster spoof movies nowadays.

Excuse me a minute, while I yell at the squirrels to get of muh lawn, dagnabit.

Anyway, all old man bellyachin’ aside (I just said “bellyachin'”…yep, I’m officially old now), I will say that not every spoof comedy movie made after 1999 is crap. Take, for instance, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. This is a movie that was made some time after the Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line, that stared Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as Johnny Cash and June Carter, respectively. But, rather than just spoof Johnny Cash’s early life, Walk Hard also includes some hilarious shots at the history of rock n’ roll, blues and country music pop culture in America all together.

We begin the story with a young Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly!) accidentally cutting his brother Nate in half in 1946. The trauma takes his sense of smell, but then he discovers that he has an affinity for the blues. Later, he preforms a song at his school talent show, which results in his father kicking him out of the house for playing “that Devil music”. So he leaves with his 12-year-old girlfriend (I should maybe point out that Dewey’s 14 at this time, although that may not lower the squick factor much), marry and have a baby. While working as a singer in a nightclub, he catches the ear of a record exec, who has him record a couple of tunes: a rockabilly rendition of “That’s Amore” (it doesn’t do well), and what would become his signature song, “Walk Hard”. The later song becomes an instant hit–literally, like in 35 minutes of its recording–and next thing you know, Dewey finds himself a rock n’ roll idol, and next thing you know he’s caught up in the lifestyle, trying drugs and sleeping around on his wife. Then his mother dies while dancing to one of Dewey’s records, which causes him to start using cocaine, and this is about the time when he meets choir-girl Darlene Madison (Jenna Fischer!), who he records several hit records with while falling madly in love with. So they get married…only, remember he’s still married to his first wife? Yeah, that doesn’t end well, and then he’s jailed for drug possession. After his stint in prison, Darlene returns to him, they move to Berkeley during the counterculture movement, takes LSD with the Beatles, then becomes obsessed with recording his masterpiece. The band leaves him due to his growing erratic and abusive behavior, and Darlene then leaves him for Glen Campbell (ouch). After some more rehab and a visit from the ghost of his brother, Dewey now hosts a variety show in the 70s, manages to reconnect with his estranged father in the most bizarre way possible, he gets a visit from one of his many illegitimate children, which causes him to want to reconnect with family again, regains his sense of smell, and then reconnects with and remarries Darlene. Again. Suddenly he’s popular with the young kids again due to rapper Lil’ Nutzzak sampling “Walk Hard” for his song. He gets a lifetime achievement award, reunites with his band, and finally composes his masterpiece song. And then he died three minutes after that. The end.

Overall, as a pop music history junkie, who loves watching documentaries about music and bands whether or not I like them*, Walk Hard was a great send-up of rock n’ roll biopics and documentaries all together. John C. Reilly once again proves his comedy chops as the lead. Taken as a comedy itself, it’s pretty over-the-top but still rather funny. I would say that Walk Hard is up there with comedies like the immortal UHF and Spaceballs. Recommended.

[*my favorite one being the VH1 Behind The Music episode of Oasis…not because I like their music (I don’t), or found the history all that interesting, but for the fact that, even though the brothers spoke English, they still had to have English subtitles to be understood]