The eye contact between mock rocker Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) and his chaste, churchgoing backup singer Darlene Madison (Jenna Fischer) is even more smoldering than the smoky orange stage lighting as the two tackle one of the hilarious showstoppers in Walk Hard, “ Let’s Duet.”
“You and I could go down,” Dewey croons, inserting a comically long pause to create a double entendre, “in history.”
“That’s what I’m praying to do with you,” Darlene responds.
Well, the soon-to-be second Mrs. Dewey Cox’s prayers have been answered by this purposely silly satire of formulaic rock ’n’ roll biopics. Just as with two of writer/producer Judd Apatow and writer/director Jake Kasdan’s main models, Ray and Walk the Line, it’s a personal-best performance that elevates Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story above what’s typical of its genre. With his exceptional pipes, Reilly—who has already earned a Golden Globe nomination for his wonderful work here—evokes everyone from Johnny Cash to Bob Dylan to Roy Orbison to Brian Wilson.
Of course, even the talented Mr. Reilly wouldn’t have much to work with if the original songs weren’t actually catchy. In addition to the anthemic title track, “ Guilty as Charged ” and “ Let’s Duet ” are the standouts here, as the songwriters successfully—yes—Walk the Line between the sometimes sophomoric comedy of the movie and the authentic artistry necessary for convincing the moviegoer that Cox could’ve conceivably cranked out as many No. 1 hits as, well, Judd Apatow.
Although Reilly does, indeed, Walk Hard down the rocky road of stardom for the entire length of the picture, let’s just say the journey—and the jokes—are a little funnier in some scenes that in others. Whenever the humor seems in danger of drying up, however, Apatow and Kasdan somehow manage to pull off another celebrity-cameo casting coup—whether it’s Frankie Muniz as Buddy Holly, Jack White as Elvis Presley or Paul Rudd, Jack Black, Justin Long and Jason Schwartzman as John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Cast: John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Kristen Wiig, Tim Meadows, Chris Parnell, Matt Besser, Raymond J. Barry, Margo Martindale, Harold Ramis and David Krumholtz
Director: Jake Kasdan
Screenwriters: Judd Apatow & Jake Kasdan
Producers: Judd Apatow, Jake Kasdan and Clayton Townsend
Genre: Musical comedy
Rating: R for sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language
Running time: 96 min.
Release date: December 21, 2007