Walking all over ‘Walk Hard’

Andrew Gaug

Every greatest hits album has those one or two obscure songs that were released as singles but went under the radar for casual fans.

In writer/producer Judd Apatow’s repertoire, Walk Hard will probably be that overlooked offering that was too goofy for the mainstream.

The movie, directed by Jake Kasdan (Orange County), stars Talledega Nights and Chicago’s John C. Reilly as Dewey Cox, a na’ve country boy who grows up to reach stardom of Johnny Cash proportions.

The story plays like a biopic, similar to Ray or Walk The Line, and parodies all of the two films stereotypes, including drug addiction and womanizing to a preposterous degree.

We see Cox as a child, whose life took a tragic turn when he cut his brother in half with a machete and subsequently lost his sense of smell. From there, he grows apart from his family, marries twice and has 22 children — all while balancing a white-hot music career.

The movie, written by Kasdan and Apatow, has the potential to be the next This is Spinal Tap. Like Spinal Tap poked fun at the dopey hair metal bands of the time, Walk Hard has fun with the similar storylines recent music biopics like Walk The Line and Ray followed.

Unfortunately, the movie misses about as much as it hits. Some reoccurring jokes work, such as Cox ripping a porcelain faucet out of the wall every time he gets mad, and some don’t, such as his father’s resentment towards him for killing his brother.

From the beginning, Walk Hard has trouble with its pacing. It seems so unsure of its jokes that, at times, it seems to jump one joke to the next in hope that the audience will keep laughing. Direct shots at Walk The Line and Ray fall flat, such as a scene with Cox in rehab and the character’s inability to smell (as opposed to being blind, get it?).

Thankfully, the movie doesn’t go the same route as recent parodies such as Epic Movie and The Comebacks. Random jokes about today’s pop culture are kept to a minimum. The characters are well-contained within the ’60s and ’70s eras which leaves for some hilarious encounters with Buddy Holly (Frankie Muniz), Elvis Presley (Jack White) and the movie’s funniest gag with The Beatles, specifically Paul McCartney (Jack Black) and John Lennon (Paul Rudd) fighting.

John C. Reilly has a lot of fun in his first lead role but tries so hard with some of the jokes he ends up looking exhausted as he attempts to get a laugh. Thankfully, many of Apatow’s alumni from Superbad, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and “Freaks and Geeks” pick up the slack in some scene-stealing cameos.

Both Kasdan and Apatow seemed to have a streak going with the former receiving praise for his overlooked indie film The TV Set and the latter for his two huge Summer hits, Knocked Up and Superbad.

There are remnants of Apatow’s hand in the film, such as a very hard R-Rating (to those who are stigmatized by male genitalia on-screen, there’s a generous amount of it in this film) and an off-the-wall sense of humor that harkens back to Anchorman and Talledega Nights. Kasdan, who previously directed smaller comedies, just can’t seem to deal with such a big production that the movie often relies on obvious jokes to fill the time.

There’s no pretending there aren’t more than a few big laughs in the film. But as the credit screen rolls, it feels like a sugary pop hit without a catchy chorus. It serves its purpose, but didn’t care to be anything more than just OK.

Contact all reporter Andrew Gaug at [email protected].