As a midnight movie, I was looking to "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" to be the perfect remedy to a 10-hour work day, a panacea with the silly spirit of "Office Space" or "Super Troopers," and to its credit it almost reached that lofty standard.
Like the movie it most directly spoofs, "Walk the Line," "Walk Hard" gets most of its charm from inspired performances by John C. Reilly as the titular Mr. Cox (and be warned, you will get your share of jokes about that) and a seriously sultry Jenna Fischer as the temptress Darlene Madison.
And for the first 30 minutes or so, that's enough to make Dewey's familiar sage a perfectly enjoyable ride. The childhood tragedy that sets Dewey down his troubled trajectory is richly funny, and listen close, in particular, to the song Reilly sings when Dewey gets his big break to fill in for the ailing Bobby Shad (Craig Robinson, a k a Darryl from "The Office.") I'm sure I laughed loud enough at that to alarm not only the people with me but all the 10 or so others who bothered to turn out for this in the wee hours of the morning too.
Like "Walk the Line," however, the movie does start to drag more than a bit when Dewey/Johnny enters the cycle of drug-induced-meltdown-to-rehab-and-back-to-the-drugs-again (though Tim Meadows, as Dewey's drummer/pusherman, is funnier in this than he has been in many years.) It isn't enough of an excuse that writers Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan (whose "TV Set" is on my viewing menu for tonight after work) felt the need to stick to the familiar story they were skewering, because when they dared to venture away from it their movie is often driven by its own uniquely silly charms.
Two scenes in particular prove this point, Dewey's Brian Wilson-style apex of excess, complete with at least 10 aborigines, and the finale, which manages to take dead aim at the awards show scene and hit its mark surer than "For Your Consideration" ever did.
And like with "Walk the Line," Reilly, though he throws himself into the character of Dewey fully, often gets overshadowed by Fischer just as Joaquin Phoenix did by Reese Witherspoon. It's a real starmaking turn, and it's her Darlene that sets the tone for the whole movie, which is, naturally, silly but with more than enough heart to have you cheering all along for Dewey and his friends to indeed "Walk Hard." (And be warned, it is more than a little juvenile at times, complete with a hotel room full of groupies that has both the requisite bare breasts and a rather gratuitously funny hanging of wang.)
The bottom line: "Walk Hard" is any factor you can come up with to the point of one million times better than any "spoof" with the word "movie" in its title. Though I suppose there's little hope that "National Treasure 2" won't win the box-office race by a wide margin, anyone who loves to laugh will be rewarded by following the saga of Dewey Cox this weekend.
The darker side of my nature is still waiting for a bad flick to come from Camp Apatow ("40-Year-Old Virgin" has been my least favorite thus far, but that flick definitely still has its merits.) I fear it will come in 2008 with either "Pineapple Express" or "Don't' Mess With the Zohan," but until then I'll be cheering for this Geek to just continue his winning streak.