Saturday, April 12, 2008

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)
Rating: One Middle Finger

Okay, I was just expecting there to be more oomph here. In telling the story of Dewey Cox, most of the recent musical biopics get skewered. So there's "Walk the Line" (Johnny Cash), "Ray" (Ray Charles), "The Doors", and... and... Okay, so I guess that's it.

It does a good job of pointing out some of the annoying idiosyncrasies of the genre - insisting on awkwardly inserting dialog to identify side actors playing musical celebrities. Or that cringe inducing moment when they get their shot in the recording studio, and everybody starts head nodding. The performances are good as well. John C Reilly never fails in his acting, and this movie is no exception.

So what went wrong? The jokes didn't have a lot of punch. After some opening dialog that was very amusing, (mostly pertaining to a machete "accident"), it never picks up any more steam. Unlike a Christopher Guest satire, which goes for pitch perfect tone and the skill of his ensemble, this movie was definitely aiming for some below the belt guffaws, and it didn't connect enough. Sure, the musical numbers were well written and it captured the essence of the movies it was sending up - but for a movie designed get people to talk about "wanting cox" - the humor wasn't sharp or frequent enough. Seriously - when you put Tim Meadows in a movie, you better have a damn good reason.

In the end, the movie meanders as it placed Dewey improbably into every cultural/musical back alley between 1953 and the present. Of course that also cuts against trying to keep your story true. Ray Charles didn't drop acid and get into the Disco era. His character dissipates into a cluttered pastiche, and you lose your Cox (sorry, I had to do it). By the end, Cox is everyone, and no one, and you just don't care.

Kudos to Jenna Fischer, who proves she's not a one trick pony on "The Office", and Raymond J Barry as a fantastic as Cox's "Pa". Barry is a consistently awesome background character actor, and it was great to see him get some extra screen time.

Unfortunately, the writing just didn't have the strength to hold the movie up. Enough good stuff to avoid a double eagle, but this flick gets flipped one bird.

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