WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY - DVD review

I'm no 'Coxologist,' but this Walk the Line parody really, umm, grows on you.

James Plath's picture
James
Plath

First came a boy named Sue, and now here's a guy named Cox?

"Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" is a title so saturated with sexual innuendo that it sounds like a porno film. That innuendo continues throughout the movie, and by way of warning, even in the theatrical release there's more than one "cox." On several occasions, male genitalia are in full view. I expected the unrated version to be much raunchier than the theatrical release, but to tell the truth they both took the sexual punning of the title and ran with it (the Swinging Cox Dancers??).

In fact, some of the film's most hilarious moments come as a result of that innuendo, like the big duet song that's intended (as most of the film) to poke fun of "Walk the Line." In this case it's the song Johnny Cash first sang with June Carter in that film:

Cox: "In my dreams, you're blowin' me . . . some kisses.
Darlene: "That's one of my favorite things to do."
Cox: "You and I could go down . . . in history.
Darlene: "That's what I'm praying' to do with you."

(Then, the beginning of the chorus: "Let's duet . . . in ways that make us feel good . . .")

As a parody, this film takes a great many scenes from "Walk the Line" and really does a good job of milking them for laughs. From "the wrong son died" to an exaggerated scene where Dewey tears a sink off a wall (and keeps doing it), the script goes after the Johnny Cash story with a relentless joy. But even "Ray" and other rock 'n' roll biopics get spoofed, as in a running gag where Dewey keeps getting involved with harder drugs. Written by Judd Apatow ("Knocked Up," "Superbad") and Jake Kasdan (yep, Lawrence's son, who also directs), "Walk Hard" isn't as consistently clever or full of as many laugh-out-loud moments as it could have been, but it's still a lot of fun.

When there is a funny moment, it's often thankfully a sequence rather than a brief gag. Case in point? When Dewey has been working as a janitor at the all-black Leroy's Lounge, the "dirty dancing" is extremely exaggerated to the point where you can't help but giggle. Then, when the lead singer of the band comes down with laryngitis and Dewey gets his big break (in kind of a "Back to the Future" moment), what does he do? He mimics the black man's introduction, complete with accent (on the unrated version, one of the Jewish record industry moguls says, "This is racially insensitive"). Then he launches into "You've Got to Love Your Negro Man" and does it so well that the crowd forgets that a minute ago they were ready to toss his white keester out the door.

John C. Reilly does a great job singing and playing it wide-eyed and innocent as the title character. But for a musician, this Cox doesn't know dick. He's a naïve young man who gets all "Dewey"-eyed whenever he's having a conversation with someone and a song suddenly comes to him. It's that goofball naiveté that drives the film almost as much as the innuendo. A guitar player, Reilly really relishes (say that three times fast) the musical numbers, and does a commendable job.

The rest of the cast seems to have fun too. Jenna Fischer is appropriately perky and sexy as "other woman" Darlene, and her "I want to/I can't" scenes with Reilly are perfectly played. Raymond J. Barry and Margo Martindale are also a riot as Ma and Pa Cox, while Kristen Wiig has a good time with her role as Cox's baby-making, long-suffering wife ("I do believe in you. I just think you're gonna fail").

But you know you're in for a fun time when the film begins with an audience clapping and stomping, waiting for Cox to come out and perform, as we saw in "Walk the Line." And when someone says it's time to go onstage, another person pokes fun of the Cash film flashback framework by saying, "You'll have to give him a moment. Mr. Cox has to think about his entire life before he plays." "Walk Hard" covers the same ground, with the unsupportive wife, the stiffing home life, the band trying to impress a record studio mogul and cut a record, the tours with other stars, the adoring fans and boozing and partying, the budding romance with Darlene/June, the fall from grace, and the eventual comeback and redemption.

Long sections involving Dewey's interaction with the Beatles'--played here by Jack Black, Justin Long, Paul Rudd, and Jason Schwartzman, and parodying the psychedelic phase many musicians went through--seems overly long, and that's not helped by inserting even more of those scenes in the expanded version (which runs 120 minutes, compared to the theatrical release's 96). It's as if once Apatow and Kasdan got started, everything about the music business seemed ripe for the parodying.

But that's about the only place the "Unbearably long, self-indulgent director's cut" bogs down. The extra 24 minutes comes mostly from extended and alternate scenes, including brief flashbacks, longer musical numbers, more psychedelic studio scenes, and more Dewey Cox Show scenes (including a duet with model Cheryl Tiegs). I can't say that the extra 24 minutes makes the film stronger, but it also doesn't make it less successful. There's a little more innuendo slipped into the director's cut, but nothing that you haven't already seen or heard before. Ultimately, it'll be a matter of choice (or mood), and I credit Sony for actually making both versions available on the same disc. I will say this, though: the main menu screen has a "play movie" option, which I thought would take me to a choice of versions. Instead, the theatrical version started to play when I clicked on it. If you want to watch the director's cut you have to access it through special features, same as the commentary track.

"Walk Hard" is rated "R" for sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use, and language.

Video:
Both versions are mastered in High Definition and look pretty good for a DVD. Colors are bright and bold in high-lit interior scenes, and there's still a decent amount of detail in dark or shadowy moments. Stage scenes actually look less grainy than the film they're parodying. "Walk Hard" is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen.

Audio:
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 is robust enough to deliver a rich-sounding audio with a nicely edited balance of music, dialogue, and ambient sounds. There's not much in the way of rear-speaker effects, but when the concert material kicks in, all of the speakers wake up. Subtitles are in English, French, and Spanish.

Extras:
There are piles of extras, including eight full song performances and a number of extended ones for "Gamblin' Man," "Walk Hard," "(I Hate You) Big Daddy," "A Life Without You," "Let's Duet," "Guilty as Charged," "Dear Mr. President," "The Mulatto Song," "Royal Jelly," "Hey Mr. Old Guy," "Farmer Glickstein," "Billy Don't be a Hero," "Starman," "(You Make Me So) Hard," "My Girl" (performed by The Temptations) and "Walk Hard" (performed by the All-Star Band).

Included here are 20 minutes of deleted/extended scenes (nine of them) with the longest being a Beatles routine and Eddie Vedder appearing at the Lifetime Awards. There's also something like a gag reel that's called "Line-o-Rama" (which basically is a compilation of funny lines), and a Cox Sausage commercial with in-character fake outtakes. Also included are early song demos sung by the composers. And for those who can't get enough, there's "Tyler Nilson: A Coxumentary" about the in-character stuff, and another short feature about the guy who responded to a call for a young male actor to literally let it all hang out. "The Last Word with John Hodgman" and a bonus feature on "The Music of Walk Hard" cover more Cox bases, while there are plenty of in-character bits, including "The Real Dewey Cox." All of them, with the exception of the musical numbers, are fairly short (under 10 minutes) and generally okay but not great.

I most enjoyed a straight "making of" feature and a lively commentary track with Kasdan, Apatow, Reilly and Lew Morton. There's some nice energy here, some laughs, and enough anecdotes to satisfy most fans.

Bottom Line:
I'm no "Coxologist," but this "Walk the Line" parody really, umm, grows on you. I laughed at a number of places the first time I watched it, and appreciated it all the more the second time through. I think if you go into it expecting to laugh uproariously every minute, you'll walk away wishing it were funnier. But if you watch with an open (well, make that BLANK) mind, it can seem like a real hoot and a half. And it's great to be able to have both the theatrical version and this "Unbearably long, self-indulgent director's cut" on the same disc.

Ratings

Video
8
Audio
8
Extras
7
Film Value
7