Judd Apatow needs to quit right now. He can't have a better year than 2007. After successfully saving big-screen comedy with the masterful Knocked Up and proving his imprint mantle with the summer smash Superbad, he's now delivered on the talent trifecta with the uproarious Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Though helmed and co-written by Lawrence Kasdan's talented son Jake
, this is Apatow's baby, from the satire-meets-slapstick tone to the casting of recognizable fan favorites. Along with a bravura turn by John C. Reilly
in the title role, what we wind up with here is one of the Awards season's silliest -- and most satisfying -- surprises.
When he was a young boy, Dewey Cox lost his virtuoso brother Nate in a freak machete accident. The trauma left the lonely child challenged, olfactorily speaking. Hoping to follow in his talented sibling's footsteps, Dewey learned the blues. He was then catipulted to fame during the heady days of early rock and roll. Though condemned for playing the Devil's music, his mixture of innocence and innuendo led to massive mainstream success. Life on the road, however, was filled with temptations. Article continues below
Falling into drugs, affairs, and reckless financial excess, his first marriage fails. But when he meets the chaste, wholesome Darlene Madison (The Office's Jenna Fisher
), it looks like Dewey's luck will change. Unfortunately, years of overkill and indulgence have destroyed his muse. The question becomes can he make music again, and more importantly, if he does, will anyone still care?
While there is much more to this outrageous movie than this simple synopsis offers, it's safe to say that Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is structured as a straightforward spoof of the notorious superstar movie biopic. Referencing everyone from Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, and Bob Dylan to classic cornball dramas like The Rose and La Bamba, Apatow and Kasdan hit all the right high notes. We get everything from the disgruntled parent with a catchphrase condemnation ("the wrong kid died") to a running gag about drugs delivered by former SNL-er (and scene stealer) Tim Meadows
. The overreliance on fame-whore name-dropping pays off perfectly, as Dewey interacts with outrageous versions of Elvis (The White Stripes' Jack White) and Buddy Holly (Frankie Muniz
) There's even a brilliant sequence of our hero getting his TM on in India with the Beatles that's worth the price of admission all by itself.
In fact, those without a reference point in Hollywood's hackwork deconstruction of fame and fortune (the formulaic rags-to-riches paradigm gets a right reaming) will still enjoy the amazing, Spinal Tap-like songs. Created with the help of a few of pop's heavy hitters, we get tunes that offer up standard rock sentiments with just enough toilet humor and sexual rudeness to rank right up there with the work of Tufnel and St. Hubbins. The acting is equally excellent, with Riley, Fischer, and disgruntled dad Raymond J. Barry
all delivering delightful turns.
It's all part of the clever approach to comedy Apatow takes. He will use any and all manners of wit to get his audience to laugh. And in this case, the tactic works terrifically. Some may see this as nothing more than a surreal star vehicle for journeyman Reilly, but there's a sarcastic context and unabashed love of the source material that helps broaden the satiric scope. As a result, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story stands as one of the year's funniest films while completing Apatow's 2007 three-peat.