'Walk Hard' Sends Up Bio-Pics

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story riffs on the spate of recent movies that seem to stick to a formula: young man with a miserable childhood gets married too young, develops a drug problem and gets a recording career that reflects the ups and downs of his life.

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

So the movie "This is Final Tap" mocked heavy metal, "A Mighty Wind" took on the folkies. And now the musician biopic itself is getting the parody treatment, "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" opened this weekend.

NPR's Bob Mondello has this review.

BOB MONDELLO: If you've seen "Walk the Line" or "Ray" or "The Buddy Holly Story," you know the drill. A young man has a miserable childhood followed by marriage too young, a hard-scrabble life that can't help finding its way into his songs.

(Soundbite of movie "Walk Hard")

Mr. JOHN REILLY (Actor): (As Dewey Cox) It's a rocky road. But I plan on walking. Oh, I'm going to walk hard. Walk hard.

MONDELLO: Do you hear a song coming on? Well, Dewey Cox does. A personal anthem, you might say.

(Soundbite of movie "Walk Hard")

Mr. REILLY: (As Dewey Cox) (Singing) Walk hard, hard down life's rocky road.

MONDELLO: Dewey's lyrics are not his strong points. They tend toward the clumsy and the inadvertent double entendre. And that's especially true when his passions get inflamed by a prudish little cutie who is also a country singer.

(Soundbite of movie, "Walk Hard")

Mr. REILLY: (As Dewey Cox) Hello, Darlene.

Ms. JENNA FISCHER (Actress): (As Darlene Madison) Hello, Mr. Cox.

Mr. REILLY: (As Dewey Cox) Are you ready to sing one?

Ms. FISCHER: (As Darlene Madison) I'm always ready.

Mr. REILLY: (As Dewey Cox) All right.

(Singing) In my dreams you're blowing me some kisses.

Ms. FISCHER: (As Darlene Madison) (Singing) That's one of my favorite things to do.

MONDELLO: Dewey, for what it's worth, is not just suggestive but also suggestible - a little too easily influenced by the musical stylings of whoever he heard last on the radio.

(Soundbite of movie, "Walk Hard")

Unidentified Man: People are saying that your new music sounds a lot like Bob Dylan.

Mr. REILLY: (As Dewey Cox) Or maybe Dylan sounds a lot like me. You know, how come nobody ever asked Bob Dylan why you sound so much like Dewey Cox.

(Soundbite of movie, "Walk Hard")

Mr. REILLY: (As Dewey Cox) (Singing) If I could see black lampposts in the twisted birth canals, I gotta see you.

MONDELLO: That's Dewey, who also has a Roy Orbison period.

(Soundbite of movie, "Walk Hard")

Mr. REILLY: (As Dewey Cox) (Singing) Darling, you must believe I could never leave you if I tried a lot.

MONDELLO: A psychedelic period.

(Soundbite of movie, "Walk Hard")

Mr. REILLY: (As Dewey Cox) (Singing) I thought of dreaming. Baby, you're making me pop to the (unintelligible) we drove.

MONDELLO: And no one writes an earnest '60s protest song quite like Dewey.

(Soundbite of movie, "Walk Hard")

Mr. REILLY: (As Dewey Cox) (Singing) I stand for the midgets. I stand for the Negro. I stand for the Injuns all hopped up on booze. I stand for the Jap, and I stand for the beaner. I stand, yes, I do, for the Christ-killing Jew.

MONDELLO: Now, as goofy as the music is, the less melodic script has such a wayward way with gags that the movie, as a whole, is less than some of its songs.

John Apatow's screenplay has a kind of "Naked Gun" sensibility where you're only as funny as your last joke. And the whole thing gets old before he and director Jake Kasdan get tired of it.

Happily, John C. Reilly is such dorky fun as Dewey. And Jenna Fischer of "The Office" has such a lovely Reese Witherspoonish way with Darlene that the filmmakers managed to squeeze a little much-needed emotion into the mix. Yes, like of a rocky road, and the movie is a little lumpy too - except when it's singing.

I'm Bob Mondello.

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'Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story'

John C. Reilly i i

A series of unfortunate events: Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly, center) lives through highs, lows and more than a few hair-don'ts on his way to music-legend status. Gemma Lamana/Columbia Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Gemma Lamana/Columbia Pictures
John C. Reilly

A series of unfortunate events: Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly, center) lives through highs, lows and more than a few hair-don'ts on his way to music-legend status.

Gemma Lamana/Columbia Pictures
  • Director: Jake Kasdan
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Running Time: 96 minutes

A fair-to-middlin' spoof of the Ray/Walk the Line/Coal Miner's Daughter brand of country-music biopics, Walk Hard has a truly hilarious score and a somewhat wayward way with gags.

All the familiar tropes of the genre are here — a hardscrabble childhood marked by family tragedy (a machete accident in a barn), a sudden rise to fame followed by every kind of misfortune (drugs, affairs, a misplaced monkey). But of course: You've gotta have misfortune to build a country song.

John C. Reilly is goofy fun as Dewey Cox, a somewhat too-easily influenced dork whose musical stylings vary with whomever he's heard last. He hears Bob Dylan, or David Bowie, or Billy Joel, and suddenly his songs sound just like theirs, only with lyrics that are just a touch, um, riper.

Walk Hard was written by Judd (Knocked Up) Apatow, who never met a double entendre he couldn't work variations on, and the musical parodies are uproarious (Reilly does all his own singing). The non-musical jesting, though, veers a little too close to the scattershot style of Airplane and The Naked Gun. Apatow's always on firmer footing when he squeezes a little emotion into the mix — and The Office's Jenna Fischer, as Dewey's fiercely prudish sweetheart, helps in that department.

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