'Walk Hard' Steps All Over the Music Biopic

John C. Reilly as Dewey Cox in 'Walk Hard'

John C. Reilly plays Dewey Cox, a musician struggling with various demons in Walk Hard. Columbia Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Columbia Pictures

A few years ago, director Jake Kasdan woke in the middle of the night with an idea: He knew, suddenly and certainly, that his next film would be a fake music biopic.

The result was Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, starring John C. Reilly as a musician with an identity crisis — to say nothing of his troubles with women and drugs.

Kasdan and Reilly join Fresh Air to talk about their work on the film, which is now out on DVD.

This broadcast originally aired December 3, 2007.

'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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