Walk Hard [PG-13]
Do people appreciate what we have in John C. Reilly?
He sings. He dances. He does P.T. Anderson-level auteur drama. He yucks it up in Will Ferrell comedies. He’s a performer of the utmost variety and effectiveness. And he makes it look easy. Or at least enjoyable.
What he hasn’t done a lot of lately is star, as he thankfully does so in the consistently funny send-up Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. The Judd Apatow-penned farce lampoons roughly every single thing you can think to lampoon in Walk the Line and other trendy musical biopics. So complete is its sarcastic targeting that it even makes fun of the eccentric, recently released Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There. This may be the first spoof to mock another movie that was in the chute at the same time. It isn’t satisfied with available toes. It seeks out new ones to step on.
Frankly, it’s a movie that I’ve been waiting for – one that hits the high note and shatters the glass between musical biopics and their deserved mockery. Every time a worked-up Dewey rips a sink from the wall – something of an Olympic sport in this one – it feels like a moment of cinematic liberation.
We start with Dewey as a young Alabama boy who accidentally kills his brother in a bizarre barnyard machete accident. Run out of his small town for playing the devil’s music, Cox plays small clubs until his big break. Once he’s discovered, he lands a hit with the Cash-like title song. From there, Dewey’s life runs humorously through the predictable ups and downs of drugs, multiple wives, roughly 300 children, and the cruel life of being an aging star.
The story is accompanied by a fleet of creative songs that, while very funny at times, are just dang hummable. The energetic title song is matched by the double-entendre-laced “Let’s Duet.” There are few, if any, voracious laughs in Walk Hard (unless you’re unusually into machete humor). But the pretty funny stuff has a nice beat and you can really dance to it.
So will this role be enough to break out Reilly from well-known, pug-faced supporting actor? I don’t know. But he leaps into the fray with gusto, tempo, and era-sensitive hair. Given his steady work in big films over the years, there are few supporting actors whom I would rather give their time in the spotlight.