Wednesday, April 9, 2008

From the Archive: "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" 2-Disc Edition DVD Review

Welcome to The Archive, a comprehensive collection of reviews dating back to 2007, originally written for The Denver Post’s YourHub.Com website and print edition!  In the archive, you’ll find hundreds of movie, DVD, Blu-Ray, and TV reviews, along with other special features.  You can access the complete Archive Collection by clicking here, and read about the archive project by clicking here. 

Continue reading after the jump to access my original DVD Review of “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”

From the Jonathan R. Lack Review Archives:
“Walk Hard:
The Dewey Cox Story”
DVD Review originally published April 9th, 2008

It’s a parody of the bio-pic genre starring the co-star from Talladega Nights.  It’s over the top silly, but has nearly 30 original songs, all of them instant classics.  It is possibly the strangest comedy of 2007, and not surprisingly, it flopped in theaters despite its brilliance.  The film is Walk Hard.  Because of its theatrical failure, is it possible that the studio gave it a great DVD?  You’ll find out by reading my review of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story: 2-Disc Unrated Edition.


Walk the Line is a great movie, with some great performances and a moving storyline.  The bio-pic that directly preceded it, Ray, was also phenomenal.  I am a big fan of the musical bio-pic, and it seemed like the last genre that would be ripe for the parody.  But nothing is too strange for comedy producer Judd Apatow, who has written, directed, and produced some of the best comedies of the last ten years.  Apatow is one of the few men in Hollywood who could probably make a bio-pic parody work, and not surprisingly, pulls it off with style.  But he’s only a small part of what makes this comedy an instant classic.

John C. Reilly is Dewey Cox, a guitar/singing sensation with demons in his past; these include accidentally cutting his brother in half with a machete.  On the road, he succumbs to every bio-pic cliché imaginable.  He experiments with and kicks every drug known to man, has 36 children, and sleeps with 411 women.  He is living the rock-star life. 

Yeah, this movie is silly.  Very silly.  From the very beginning, it’s full of the kind of silly humor that would make the Monty-Python general go ballistic.  Characters exaggerate everything they think, to poke more fun at bio-pic conventions.  Dewey gets into some ridiculous situations, the timeline is grossly skewed, and there is gratuitous nudity.  But it’s all for comedic effect, and 95 percent of the notes hit are in tune. 

The film boasts an impressive script by Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan, who also directed the movie.  Their script is the basis for all this humor, and they have the bio-pic down to a T.  I’d like to see these two write a real bio-pic sometime; they could hit a totally home-run with it.  But their script only works because of two other, glorious elements of the film.

The first is the music.  A variety of composers wrote nearly 30 original songs for Dewey to perform.  They write rock, country, disco, rap, punk---if you can name it, it’s in the movie.  The word spoof can’t be used with these songs; they’re mostly serious, and are phenomenally written.  They could pass as hit singles.  The comedy comes from the fact that the music is so good.  Walk Hard didn’t get any nominations for Best Song at this year’s Oscars, and that is a travesty.  If Enchanted can get three songs nominated, then Walk Hard should have at least gotten the title song up.  The music is great, and fuels the movie almost as much as the single best element of the film.

That element is John C. Reilly; he’s deserved a promotion from co-star to main event for years now, and he takes the opportunity to full potential.  He doesn’t parody any singular person; in fact, he doesn’t spoof anyone at all, really.  He becomes a new person named Dewey Cox, and sinks completely into the role.  The film’s real humor comes from how deeply the man is committed to the part.  And boy can he sing!  Reilly plays guitar and sings on all his songs in the film, and brings the character into his singing.  What Daniel Day-Lewis did for Drama in There Will Be Blood John C. Reilly does for comedy in Walk Hard. 

Unlike other comedians, he restrains himself and puts the right level of silliness or sincere-ness into each scene, depending on the comedic need.  I like Will Ferrel, but because of Reilly’s knowledge of when to go over the top and when to keep it sealed, he manages to be an even more impressive comedian.  I hope Reilly gets more starring roles in the years to come, because he certainly deserves it.

The rest of the cast is pitch-perfect.  The Office’s Jenna Fischer portrays Darlene, a back-up singer who becomes Cox’s second wife; she plays it as a send up of Reese Witherspoon in Walk The Line.  Tim Meadows almost steals the show from Reilly as the drum player who continually gets Dewey addicted to drugs.  A host of other SNL alumnis fill out the rest of the cast.  There’s some great humor in the miscasting too.  Frankie Muniz has a cameo as Buddy Holly.  Jack Black, Paul Rudd, Jason Shwartzman and Justin Long play The Beatles in one of the film’s funniest sequences. 

Almost every joke in the film will get big laughs.  Most of it is truly inspired, though some of the shock humor (like nudity) becomes stupid on repeated viewings.  The pacing is a bit-off; at 96 minutes, it feels much longer.  I won’t necessarily ding the film for this though; it might be intentional, to capture the feeling of an overly-long bio-pic.  And the jokes keep flying even in the slow parts.

On DVD, we are treated to two versions of the film.  We have the 96-minute Theatrical Version, and the 120-minute American Cox: The Unbearably Long, Self-Indulgent Director’s Cut.  Now, I usually hate extended or Unrated versions of comedies.  The usually have a bunch of bad jokes thrown in for no reason.  But Walk Hard might be the exception.

There’s 24 minutes of new content, most of it in the middle when Dewey has his own TV show.  I think most of it is really, really funny stuff.  Some of the new jokes are better than the old ones.  The only new footage that doesn’t really work is some nudity or sex thrown in, seemingly, just for the heck of it.  But most of it is great, and fits with the surrounding material.  Better yet, it pads out the sixties and seventies portions, giving us a greater idea of Dewey’s life throughout the years.  Pacing, of course, is left for dead—but this brings the film even closer to the bio-pics that it parodies.  The original version has pacing issues as well, and the new footage is so good that I can forgive other pacing issues.  This is the version to watch for fans, but if this is your first time with the film, I’d still go with the Theatrical Cut.

Whatever version you choose, Walk Hard is a great, truly inspired comedy.  It avoids pop-culture references, so it can remain timeless.  Apart from Knocked Up (another Apatow film) this was the best comedy of 2007.

Film Rating(Theatrical/Extended): B+/A-  


The two versions of the film are available on Disc One of the set, via seamless branching.  Video is the same on both, and is quite good overall.  Colors are sharp and accurate for most of the film; flesh tones are strong, except in a few instances when faces seem to look green or blue.  Contrast is solid; the blacks are deep, excepting some very dark scenes indoors.  Detail is good for most of the film, but occasional softness in the image makes it muddy; again, this is mostly in dark, indoor scenes.  This all combines to make an image that isn’t a home-run, but is more than serviceable.  This isn’t a highly visual film; it’s just a fun comedy, and we get a better picture than the film necessarily merits.  But I’m not complaining.

The audio is solid; it lacks a kick other music-based DVD’s have, but is still very strong.  Dialouge comes through clear, even in music-based montages.  The music itself is clear and vivid, and is a joy to listen to.  The audio and video create a very good viewing experience.

Video Rating: 7.5/10
Audio Rating: 8.5/10


Walk Hard’s 2-disc DVD has a surprising amount of extras, though some of it is hit-and-miss material.  Disc one features a good commentary with Director Jake Kasdan, Writer/Producer Judd Apatow, John C. Reilly and Lew Morton.

Disc Two features the rest of the extras; it’s a blend of comic material and making-of featurettes.  First is Full Song Performances; there are about 16 songs here, many of which weren’t in the movie at all.  The songs were one of the best elements of the film, and I love having these uncut versions and new material.  Together, they run a whopping 41 minutes!  Next is Deleted and Extended Scenes; there are 9 of these, and while I’m glad they were left on the cutting room floor, they are fun to see.  Continuing this humor within/without the movie theme, the next feature is Line-O-Rama (6:22), which is a collection of alternate lines from scenes in the movie.  Some of this is funny, but it amounts to a lot of hit and miss improv.

Next is A Christmas Song From Dewey Cox (2:52).  This is a new song for the DVD, and features Reilly in character singing an “I’ll be home for Christmas” type song, only with a lot more ego.  It’s very, very funny.  Cox Sausage Commercial with Outtakes (2:22) is a deleted scene from the movie where Dewey is shooting a sausage commercial.  It’s very funny, but I wonder why it isn’t with Deleted Scenes. 

The next batch of extras is more about the film itself, and it starts with Song Demos.  These are audio-only demos of songs by the composers who worked on the music.  There are 9 demos and 4 alternate versions.  From a musical standpoint, this is very cool to have. 

Tyler Nilson: A Cockumentary (5:55) is one of the grossest and most pointless bonus features in the history of DVD.  It’s about the man in the marijuana scene who was walking around naked, showing his…you know…  Anyway, this featurette is pointless and gross.  Bull On the Loose (3:45) is also kind of pointless, but a nice and informative featurette nonetheless.  It discusses how they achieved the scene early in the film where Dewey and his brother are being chased by a bull.

The Music of Walk Hard (16:42) is the first real making-of thing on this disc, and it is pretty cool.  It explains how the music was written and recorded; there’s some great backstage footage here, and it is very informative.  The Making of Walk Hard (15:09) is a general overview of the production.  Casting and other elements are discussed, but it’s all glossed over a bit quickly.  But it’s a good featurette that is easily worth a watch.   

The Real Dewey Cox (14:03) is all about the man who inspired the film—Dewey himself!  Just kidding.  Dewey Cox isn’t real, but the featurette pretends he is.  Interviews with musicians like Lyle Lovett, Jackson Browne, Sheryl Crowe, and others make this a total hoot.  They talk about how Cox was an influence on their life.  The featurette gets a bit repetitive, but is still hilarious.  In the same vein, The Last Word with John Hodgman (25:52) treats Dewey as real.  A fake talk show host interviews Dewey shortly before his death, and talks with friends and relatives about the man’s life.  This is even better than the “Real Dewey Cox” feature—there’s some great work from other cast members on display.

Altogether, there’s just over 151 minutes (2 and a half hours) of video bonus features; that’s not including all the audio song demos and the audio commentary.  Simply put, this two disc set is LOADED.  Not all of it is top-notch.  Some of the humor-based material loses appeal quickly, but I love having the full music sequences, deleted scenes, and mockumentary features.  All of it is in anamorphic widescreen to make the extras even better.

Extras and Presentation Rating: 8.5/10


Rude, silly, and extremely off-beat, Walk Hard succeeds because of its originality, as well as great music and a wonderful turn from John C. Reilly.  The DVD is a winner; you get two versions of the film with great A/V quality, along with an absolutely loaded second disc of bonus features.  Walk Hard isn’t for everyone, but the DVD has something for anyone who enjoyed the film, even just a little bit.  It’s worth every cent, and gets my high recommendation.

OVERALL RATING(not an average): 9/10

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