Honestly, I don’t know what the bigger tragedy is, the fact that John C. Reilly has been a funny performer for years, or the fact that it’s taken guys like Judd Apatow and Adam McKay a chance to show off his comedic talent. For those who don’t know, Reilly was in a hilarious ten-minute blooper reel in Boogie Nights which showed that he could improvise with the best of them. The guy also played Bigfoot in an episode of the Tenacious D show that aired on HBO in the mid ‘90s. But sure, put him in Chicago where he was nominated for an Oscar or in ensemble films directed by some of film’s greatest voices. His true love, that which gives him much joy and pleasure, appears to be when he’s goofing around, like he does in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
Walk Hard was co-written by Judd Apatow, whom you might have heard of. Any R-rated comedy that has been released in the last 18 months to any sort of popular appeal has had some sort of involvement by the writer-producer-director. Jake Kasdan (Orange County) was the other writer and directed the film, where Reilly plays Dewey. He grew up in the shadow of his brother, who died after a tragic machete incident. Dewey grew up and had a hit early in his life, but then went through the usual period of drugs and substance abuse before his career went through a rebirth of sorts. If it sounds like the usual biopic treatment of a musical icon, that’s what it is, and what Apatow and Kasdan manage to do is stick a thumb in the collective eye of films like Ray and Walk the Line, as those films possess a slight precociousness that deserves lampooning of some sort. Reilly plays Dewey as a fifteen-year-old. The guy is over 40, OK? So yeah, that’s funny. When Dewey’s drummer Sam (Tim Meadows, Semi-Pro) shows him what drugs are like, it’s done with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Dewey’s various relationship issues are shown, starting from his first wife Edith (Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live) who seems to be pregnant in every scene as she puts down Dewey, to his second wife Edith (Jenna Fischer, The Office), who is a born-again Christian and hopes to get Dewey the same way. Every girl, boy, rock and stick in between is shown too.
There are a lot of laughs, and Reilly brings out a comic flair that not many people have realized before. And many of the Apatow stock company who appear in his films, including Jonah Hill (Superbad) and Paul Rudd (Knocked Up) are given scenes to chew on as well, resulting in hours of enjoyment after repeated viewings. But sadly, it falls victim to its own main idea without any sort of outward thinking. It wants to be a 21st century Spinal Tap, and there are scenes that are funny, but it focuses too much on the parody tip without a lot of scenes that might transcend the story. It’s not to say that Walk Hard isn’t funny, it surely is, but at times it feels like it’s too smart for the room, and at only 96 minutes, Walk Hard feels like it’s 10 to 15 minutes too long, and that’s saying something.
Dolby Digital 5.1 for the ears and it’s a decent one. Sound possesses a good dynamic range, dialogue is clear and planted in the center channel, and directional effects are smartly placed throughout the picture. The abundance of songs reminds you that the music is quite balanced and overall, this is an excellent sounding feature.
Walk Hard walks hard with a 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. The film was apparently shot with high definition equipment, and the color palette, while being more than a little varied, is all reproduced accurately and vividly. Blacks and reds look fantastic, there’s detail to be gained on some of the tighter shots, and the image is full of color at any given time. This thang sure do look purty.
There are single and two-disc extended edition DVD sets to go with the film’s release, and we were lucky to receive the one disc, which has…some material. The biggie is a commentary with Reilly, Apatow, Kasdan and Executive Producer Lew Morton. This commentary was recorded for the extended cut, so there are gaps of flat out silence and other times where the commentary seems to pick up out of nowhere. To be fair, Apatow mentions this at the beginning of the recording, and from there, everyone seems to have fun at their own expense and those of others. Everyone discusses how they got to the project and how the other cast members got their roles, and Reilly occasionally chimes in about what “real” actors do from time to time. Memories of test screenings abound, and Apatow discusses the inspirations for many of the scenes. Morton is quite the unneeded participant on this track, which is quite enjoyable. Four deleted and extended sequences lasting about 10 minutes in length follow. The alternate stuff is pretty funny and probably could have been included into the final cut to be honest. Six minutes of alternate lines follow, the usual stuff mixed in with almost blooper material. There are complete performances of eight songs from the film if you feel so inclined, and those total 23 minutes. “The Music of Walk Hard” is a 16-minute piece on how Reilly pulled it off with the help of Kasdan and the film’s numerous composers, of course. There’s rehearsal footage with Reilly, along with the musicians’ thoughts on the actor, and the challenges from and inspirations for the film’s music. “The Real Dewey Cox” is just as long and is designed to focus on the fictitious character as if he were real, with interviews from the cast and several other musicians who both did and didn’t appear in the film. It probably would be funnier if it wasn’t so friggin’ long, although it helps reinforce the notion that John Mayer is actually pretty funny. Trailers for Steep and You Don’t Mess With the Zohan complete the disc.
Well, the film sure looks and sounds good, but on just the one disc, I’d say that you can pass on by Walk Hard. The film is OK and everything, but I think that it’s more of an event film than one that’s actually kind of decent and worth checking out. So if you like things like this, then go get the two-disc set and fire away, but if you’re looking for actual film enjoyment, this is an edgier but not as funny Spinal Tap, which begins and ends the “mockumentary” list, so watch this at your own risk.