Judd Apatow has had a very busy year establishing himself as the impresario of super-smart stupid comedy, so you'll forgive him if his script for this rockumentary spoof-fest never hits the giddy heights of his lowbrow insta-classics Knocked Up or The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Walk Hard does get fairly high though, in every meaning, as the script has nearly as many hits as its hard-living music icon, Dewey Cox, played with balls-out bravado by John C. Reilly. Dewey's epic life story is a mash-up of biographic details cribbed from Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and just about every other hard-partying, self-destructive musical genius of the last half century, all tied up in one big, goofy lunk of a man, who's more idiot savant than visionary.
The flick takes a field trip through decades of R&B, pop and rock 'n' roll, all in lovingly rendered tunes that are pitch-perfect genre copies, though most are curiously unfunny. The exception is the bawdy "Let's Duet" a volley of innuendoes exchanged with comely backup singer Darlene (Jenna Fischer), who becomes Dewey's love interest, much to the chagrin of his barefoot, perpetually pregnant wife (Kristen Wiig).
In addition to womanizing, Dewey picks up one drug habit after another, through his drummer (Tim Meadows), who keeps warning him "you don't want this shit" before laying out hilariously compelling sales pitches for weed, coke, pills, etc. Stuff like this goes much farther than the dopey trailer would lead you to believe, including sex, violence and full-frontal male nudity that is above and beyond the implicit dick joke calling the lead character "Cox." The problem is that every time a joke works, it gets abused over and over again like Tina Turner.
Some stuff flops, some kills, like a riotous encounter with the psychedelic-era Beatles, and Jack White's lame cameo as a mumbling Elvis. By the time Dewey gets to his "Brian Wilson" phase as a shaggy, drugged-out visionary playing piano from his living room sandbox and demanding "More diggery-do" for his spaced out orchestral rock, the joke has sagged lower than Little Richard's sweaty wig.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].
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