After watching Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story in the theaters, I considered it the weakest of producer/writer Judd Apatow’s 2007 film (trailing Knocked-Up and Superbad by a country mile). In fact, I found it a little disappointing. I wasn’t the only one. It bombed at the box office. After watching it again on DVD, in two versions no less, I found it funnier and less disappointing. It’s still not great, but it’s, well, pretty darn good Buddy Holly.
Although it’s billed as parody of music biopics going back as far as 1978’s The Buddy Holly Story and including La Bamba, Ray, and others; Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story primarily spoofs 2005’s Walk the Line. The basic outline of Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) and his rise to fame parallels the story of Johnny Cash, just with more dick jokes. Lots and lots of dick jokes. Also monkey jokes, sex jokes, drug jokes, and music jokes.
Writer/director Jake Kasdan and writer/producer Judd Apatow take everything that biopics hold dear and push them to their ridiculous extreme. While a young Johnny Cash would leave his brother to be hurt in a buzz saw accident, eight-year old Dewey slices his in half with a machete. As the top half of his brother notes, “I’ve been sliced in half pretty bad, Dewey.” Their father (Raymond Barry) isn’t subtle at placing the blame, repeating day after day, “the wrong kid died.” Ray Charles went blind so Dewey Cox goes smell-blind. And on, and on, and on. If you’ve seen it in a biopic, Kasdan and Apatow make fun of it here.
The movie progresses with Dewey through four decades, allowing mocking of all musical and entertainment eras. Starting in the 1950’s, Dewey is a rockabilly star thanks to his signature song, “Walk Hard.” Notice how the song, which was written by Marshall Crenshaw and sounds pretty good with Reilly’s vocals, is also a dick joke? Dewey marries Edith (Kristen Wiig), who bares him in the neighborhood of 28 kids and tells him that she does believe in him, she just knows he’s going to fail. His true love shows up later in the person of back-up singer Darlene (Jenna Fischer) who is both hot and hilarious singing double entendre songs and participating in the sexiest furniture making session ever.
Through the ensuing decades, Dewey jumps on and skewers every musical fad from protest songs to disco to rap. His band (Tim Meadows, Chris Parnell, and Matt Besser) join him in defiling groupies, taking drugs, and living the excessive rock star life, complete with a pet monkey and a camel on the lawn. The raunch and crudeness are set high as if the only joke that can be made is the one that shows a rock movie cliché pushed to the edge and sometimes over. It’s not a subtle movie and suffers some for lacking anything less obvious than a sledgehammer over the head.
While it will never be This is Spinal Tap or Waiting for Guffman, it’s also not Scary Movie or those other teen cheapie spoofs. The look of the film matches the real thing and this helps put the joke over. The music, all original songs that sound like the real deal with a twist, are fun to listen to and Reilly is a good singer. If the lyrics themselves aren’t funny, as they are in Dewey’s “Dylan Period,” then the juxtaposition of Dewey singing a heartfelt love song to his wife intercut with the graphic seduction of each of his backup singers is a kick.
Apatow is also good enough to get tons of his famous friends to play real-life contemporary rock stars. He doesn’t even care if the people look anything like the person they play, that’s just part of the joke. Jack Black as Paul McCartney? Sure. Frankie Muniz as Buddy Holly? You bet. Anything for a laugh is the order of the day. Kasdan makes sure to keep the whole thing zipping along at 97 minutes. Since the movie basically only hits one note and just plays it through the whole story, the quick pacing is important as the overabundance of dick and related jokes starts to wear a little thin. Still, it’s a funny one note and will keep you laughing for the duration.
The Blu-ray edition comes with two discs and has similar extras to the DVD Special Edition. The first disc includes two versions of the film. The R-rated theatrical version and an unrated version called the “The Unbearably Long Self-Indulgent Director’s Cut.” The name isn’t totally ironic. I didn’t care for the director’s cut, which lasted 121 minutes, compared to a brisk 97 for the theatrical cut, but I do like the idea of showing deleted and extended scenes in the context of the movie and not just randomly slapped together in a separate package. One of the longest parts cut out of the extended cut deals with Dewey’s 1970s television show and his marriage to Cheyl Tiegs. If you want to know why that’s funny, put their two last names together in a married hyphenate. Ok, now that you’ve done that you probably can skip the longer version. The disc does include an option to have an icon appear in the director’s cut anytime new material has been added.
There is a decent (but not as good as you might think) commentary by Kasdan, Apatow, Reilly and Executive Producer Lew Morton. The group never quite gels and while there are a few funny ironic comments thrown out from time to time, overall it’s just average. Reilly is probably the most entertaining of the bunch. The same commentary will play for both versions of the film, just the parts where the talk about the extended or deleted scenes are not included in the theatrical version commentary.
The remaining extras are included on the bulging second disc. That’s right, it’s a disc bulging with Cox. Those are the kind of lame jokes you throw out after watching most of Kasdan and Apatow’s featurette’s, which are very, very heavy on making you laugh at Dewey’s last name and its similarity to the slang for a man’s private parts. In short, get ready for more dick jokes. These are especially heavy in things like the video for “A Christmas Song from Dewey Cox” and the “Cox Sausage Commercial,” which run about five minutes each. Both are full of Cox innuendo and after sitting through a whole Cox-centric movie, it gets to be a little much. Oh, the sausage taste like Cox? Bwa-ha-ha. I get it, it tastes like dick! I can’t get too much of that. Well, yes, I can.
The dick jokes and allusions continue on “The Real Dewey Cox.” It’s a mildly funny 15-minute featurette where real music stars (Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, Lyle Lovett, and others) act as through Dewey Cox is real musical icon. Crow is the primary dick-joke foil and she’s a good sport, but damn, it starts to get old. Mayer is actually very funny talking about Dewey creating a musical melded style without ever tying it to anyone’s genitals. There is an even longer extra hosted by John Hodgeman (PC in the Mac commercials) that interviews all of the actors in character to summarize Dewey’s life. Once you get over the joke of them pretending that Dewey is a real person, it’s not particularly hilarious. The genitals humor hits rock bottom with a six minute extra on the guy who goes full monty in the orgy scene. Called “Tyler Nilson: A Cockumentary” (subtle!), Kasdan and others talk about Nilson in a fairly normal way and then talk about his penis as though it’s a separate person. It’s pretty terrible, especially when the penis is interviewed and speaks with what sounds like the voice of Craig Robinson. Nilson actually comes across like a good guy, but the bit is stupid rather than funny.
Once you wade your way through the penis-centric fodder, there are quite a few decent extras remaining, primarily focusing on the music. The best extra is probably the ability to see 19 of the movie’s songs in full. It takes more than 40 minutes to watch them all and it demonstrates that most of the songs are pretty good on their own, although some lose a bit of their punch devoid of the movie context. There is one protest song (not the one about the midgets) that is absolutely hilarious and should have been played in full during the film. The full songs are played with the accompanying scene from the film, but there is also an extra that allows you to hear the original demo without any visuals. So you can Marshall Crenshaw sing “Walk Hard” and the other songwriters sing their songs that Dewey later records. There are also some alternate versions of a few songs. Rounding out the musical section is a 15 minute featurette called “The Music of Walk Hard.” It’s a standard extra dealing with how the songs were chosen and the music recorded. Reilly’s involvement as the “artist” is pushed by several of the musical people as a key to why the music worked well in the film.
Although a full 23 minutes of additional footage is added to the director’s cut, there is still another 8 minutes of deleted and extended scenes that are packaged on the second disc. It’s nothing thrilling as should be obvious by its not being added to the director’s cut. There is also the obligatory Apatow “Line-o-Rama.” While I’ve seen this on other DVD’s and it might include four or five different ad-libs for a given scene, this more often than not only shows one or two. The lines are funny, but it begs for more.
There is a standard “making-of” featurette that doesn’t pretend Dewey is a real person or go overboard on the dick jokes. In fact, the one joke is that they think it is going to be an Academy Award winning film, but the rest of the “making-of” is pretty straight forward. The final, and best, extra is really an accidental item. Called “Bull on the Loose,” it shows what happens when an angry bull runs right at a camera and doesn’t stop. It’s the only extra on this disc and one of the few on any disc where I was surprised, amazed, and immediately called other people into the room to watch it again. Whatever you do, don’t skip this extra, it’s the best of the bunch.
The Blu-ray release looks and sounds fantastic, naturally. The sound is especially important due to the role music, even jokey songs, play in the movie. If you have a PS3, you can get a few extra bits through the BD-Live function. Despite the over-emphasis on penis jokes, this is a decent package and will please Cox-fans.