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Jake Kasdan
John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Raymond J. Barry, Margo Martindale, Kristen Wiig, Chip Hormess, Conner Rayburn, Tim Meadows, Chris Parnell
Writing Credits:
Judd Apatow, Jake Kasdan

Life made him tough. Love made him strong. Music made him hard.

One of the most iconic figures in rock history, Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) had it all: the women (over 411 served), the friends (Elvis, The Beatles), and the rock 'n' roll lifestyle (a close and personal relationship with every pill and powder known to man). But most of all, he had the music that transformed a dimwitted country boy into the greatest American rock star who never lived. A wild and wicked send-up of every musical biopic ever made, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is gut-busting proof that when it comes to hard rocking, living and laughing, a hard man is good to find.

Box Office:
$35 million.
Opening Weekend
$6.257 million on 2650 screens.
Domestic Gross
$18.317 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.40:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

96 min. (Theatrical Version)
120 min. (Unrated Cut)
Price: $29.96
Release Date: 4/8/2008

DVD One:
• Both Theatrical and Unrated Versions of the Film
• Audio Commentary with Director Jake Kasdan, Writer/Producer Judd Apatow, Executive Producer Lew Morton and Actor John C. Reilly
DVD Two:
• 16 Full Song Performances
• 10 Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Line-O-Rama
• “A Christmas Song from Dewey Cox”
• “Cox Sausage Commercial with Outtakes”
• Song Demos
• “Tyler Nilson: A Cockumentary” Featurette
• “Bull on the Loose” Featurette
• “The Music of Walk Hard” Featurette
• “The Making of Walk Hard” Featurette
• “The Real Dewey Cox” Featurette
• “The Last Word with John Hodgman” Featurette
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (Unrated Special Edition) (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 28, 2008)

Writer/producer Judd Apatow embraces Spinal Tap territory with 2007’s Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. The story starts in 1946 as we meet the titular Cox as a child (Conner Rayburn). He pals around with his brother Nate (Chip Hormess), a supremely talented pianist who Dewey accidentally chops in half. As his dying wish, Nate requests that Dewey become “doubly good” in the future.

Dewey hears some grizzled old blues men and decides that’s what he wants to do. He proves to be a blues natural and takes up the music with the encouragement of Nate’s ghost. From there we leap to 1953 to see “14-year-old” Dewey (John C. Reilly) at a high school talent show. His band plays an innocent rock song called “Take My Hand” and ignites a riot with his “radical” music.

As a result – and antagonized by his father’s (Raymond J. Barry) continued bitterness over Nate’s death – Dewey leaves home to seek his musical destiny. During an argument with his 13-year-old wife Edith (Kristen Wiig), the 15-year-old Dewey comes up with the phrase “walk hard”, which he soon adapts into a song. When the lead act at the club where he sweeps the floors gets hurt, Dewey manages to wheedle his way into the spotlight.

Dewey impresses some talent scouts during his performance, and this lands him in the recording studio. After a bunch of flop takes, Dewey hits his last chance and trots out “Walk Hard”, a tune that immediately strikes a chord. Dewey immediately becomes a big star and hits the road, a path that estranges him from Edith. It doesn’t help that he soon takes drugs, indulges in multiple affairs, and falls in love with his new backup singer Darlene (Jenna Fischer). The rest of the movie follows Dewey’s trials and tribulations over the decades – and his attempts to live up to Nate’s dying wish.

Despite my earlier reference to Spinal Tap, Hard doesn’t fall into the “mockumentary” realm, as it instead lampoons recent biopics. Clearly Ray and Walk the Line act as its primary inspirations; you’ll see tons of echoes of those two flicks. It branches into its own territory at times, though always influenced by real-life musicians. For instance, when Dewey starts to break down mentally, the story goes into serious Brian Wilson mode.

I really wanted to like Hard. I think highly of most of its talent both behind and on screen, and I like the premise. I fully intended to see the flick theatrically, but bad reviews scared me away from it.

However, negative critical appraisal doesn’t doom a movie to failure, so I was open to a pleasant experience from the DVD. During the first few minutes of Hard, I thought it might have deserved better. The opening act works pretty well. I like the bits with his family in the 1940s, and Dewey’s entrance into the music business amuses. Sure, the film takes some pretty easy shots, but it pulls off the jokes in a satisfying manner.

Unfortunately, most of the laughs go bye-bye around the time Dewey starts doing drugs. No, that’s not some sort of reflection that dope ruins your life; it’s not like the filmmakers wanted Hard to become less amusing at that point. For me, however, the flick just turns more tedious and less amusing around that part.

Maybe the premise was just too thin to carry a feature film. Hard doesn’t even attempt any form of real plot. At least Spinal Tap traces the band as they disintegrate; sure, it’s episodic, but the moments create an arc. No similar thrust occurs here. Dewey does go through his changes, but they never feel natural. They exist more to create a “greatest hits” reel of music-related bio-flick clichés.

Indeed, Hard often feels more preoccupied with music history than with entertainment. It seems like the filmmakers want to impress us with the references rather than create a coherent tale. Why does Dewey go to India in 1967? To get in an easy Beatles nod. There’s no other rhyme or reason involved with that scene or many others; they exist to toss out some gags and that’s about it.

Unfortunately, many of the jokes just bomb. C’mon, forcing the Lennon character to use the word “imagine” doesn’t require cleverness, and the flick also lacks subtlety. For instance, back in the 1950s a coked-up Dewey rushes through a hard-rocking version of “Walk Hard”. That rendition is funny enough on its own, especially in the way it presages the music scene of the late 1970s. When a character telegraphs the gag with a crack that the speedy version makes Dewey “sound like a punk”, it insults the intelligence of the audience. We already got the joke; we didn’t need it rammed down our throats.

I hate to continually discuss Hard in connection to Spinal Tap, but any filmmakers who take on music movie parody must prepare themselves for those comparisons; they’re inevitable, I think. Hard doesn’t try to be the same kind of flick. Tap was a fake documentary, while Hard mocks the standard Hollywood biopic.

However, Tap works better for two reasons. First, it doesn’t get so specific. The constant references to the eras and other artists turn Hard into drudgery. Tap virtually never discusses musical peers, and it’s better for it, as it doesn’t seem so stuck on showing off its sophistication.

In addition, Tap has actual heart and interesting characters. The filmmakers worked so hard to pack in all those references that they forgot to make Dewey anything other than a cardboard cutout. He develops the traits of biopic subjects like Ray Charles and Johnny Cash but stays cartoony from start to finish. We never care about Dewey at all, so his adventures become tiresome and redundant.

Hard does have some good elements. It boasts an excellent supporting cast. One great turn comes from Jane Lynch as a clueless local TV host, and I think Jack White provides a hilariously incoherent turn as Elvis. In real life, White annoys the heck out of me, but his take on the King creates real laughs. None of the other impersonations work as well – especially in the case of the pointless and ineffective Beatles segment.

Ultimately, Walk Hard strikes me as a conglomeration of references and little character bits but nothing deeper than that. It gets in a few good laughs but wears out its welcome well before the ending arrives. After a good first act, the film winds up as a definite disappointment.

Footnote: stick around through the finish of the end credits for an odd coda.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus A-

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie provided a pretty solid transfer.

Only a little softness cropped into the presentation. A few wide shots came across as less sharp than I’d like, but those instances occurred infrequently. The majority of the movie seemed crisp and well-defined. No issues with moiré effects or jaggies occurred, and source flaws remained absent.

Colors worked well. The movie often went with a fairly golden tint typical of the period pieces lampooned here, but that tone didn’t overwhelm things. The palette broadened in a satisfying way with some vivid hues. Blacks looked deep and dense, while shadows were clear and well-developed. This was a consistently pleasing presentation.

One would expect a flick like Walk Hard to emphasize music, and one’s expectations would be met with this good Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The score and songs displayed very nice stereo imaging and also used the surrounds to open things up in a satisfying manner. Effects played a decent role as well, though not as often. Good environmental information came along for the ride, and some more active sequences also gave us solid material. The surrounds weren’t tremendously involved, but they added good pizzazz when necessary.

At all times, audio quality succeeded. Music remained the most important element, and the various tunes and score seemed lively and full. Speech was natural and crisp, without edginess or other concerns. Effects were also distinctive and vivid, and the track boasted nice low-end response. I liked this fine soundtrack.

Extras come on both discs of this set. On DVD One, the big attraction comes from an extended unrated version of the film. Called “American Cox: The Unbearably Long, Self-Indulgent Director’s Cut”, this edition lasts about 24 minutes longer than the theatrical film, which also appears on the disc. Most of the extra footage comes from extensions of pre-existing scenes. Some of these added snippets are very brief – like a couple seconds more with Buddy Holly – but a few others are a bit more substantial.

Those little tidbits add up to the majority of the extra 24 minutes, but one significant new thread develops. Dewey’s life in the 1970s and his TV series get a lot of play here. We find guest stars Cheryl Tiegs, Cheryl Ladd, Morgan Fairchild and Patrick Duffy in that part of the movie, and it creates a different story for that period. Dewey actually marries Tiegs, apparently solely so the flick can use the pun “Cox-Tiegs”. (Traditionally the woman’s maiden name comes first when she hypenates, but “Tiegs-Cox” would kill the gag.)

Does any of this material make the movie better? Nope. I already thought Hard was too long at 96 minutes, so 25 percent more footage doesn’t help. Some of the bits have value and can be reasonably entertaining, but two hours of Hard is just way too much. The additions would’ve been more interesting as simple deleted scenes.

DVD One also gives us an audio commentary from director Jake Kasdan, writer/producer Judd Apatow, executive producer Lew Morton and actor John C. Reilly. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. Note that the same commentary accompanies the theatrical cut of the film and the extended version; the former just edits the longer chat.

The commentary looks at the project’s roots and some development, how Apatow got the participants on board, cast, characters and performances, script choices and altered/abandoned concepts, music, cinematic inspirations and influences, changes made for the unrated cut and a few other production stories.

Like other commentaries for Apatow flicks, this one becomes informative and entertaining. It covers the appropriate aspects of the movie well and does so with style. It’s a fun listen that serves the film nicely.

With that we head to DVD Two and its components. For more music we get 16 Full Song Performances. These include “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” (The Temptations) and “Walk Hard (All Star Band)”. Taken together via the “Play All” option, they fill a total of 41 minutes, 22 seconds.

Most of these are good to see, though a few are more interesting than others. “President” reveals a lot of lyrics not in the final film, and in this “Jelly” we see that Dewey’s on the Ed Sullivan Show. “Hero” gives us some more 70s cheesiness from Dewey’s variety show, and that makes it fun. “(You Make Me So) Hard” is the full Lil’ Nutzzak music video in all its glory; with its insanely raunchy lyrics, it’s a hoot. This is a good collection of pieces, though it goes a little overboard on the Dylan-influenced folk songs; obviously these would’ve become tiresome if they all appeared in the flick.

10 Deleted and Extended Scenes go for a total of 19 minutes, 23 seconds. We find “Basement Songwriting” (0:54), “Drug Deal” (1:10), “Prison” (1:41), “Rehab #1” (3:30), “Beatles” (4:25), “Alternate Acid Trip” (2:00), “Rehab #2” (0:17), “Gail MacNamara” (1:11), and “Eddie Vedder Speech” (4:13). “Beatles” is the least interesting to me, perhaps because I don’t like the shorter scene in the final flick; more of that stuff doesn’t amuse me. I actually prefer the “Alternate Acid Trip” to the animated one, though, and the others have some funny bits. However, “Gail” is a disappointment since it focuses on Reilly’s character; I hoped to get more from Jane Lynch.

A staple of Apatow DVDs, Line-O-Rama runs six minutes, 22 seconds. As always, it features alternate takes of certain scenes. These include a fair amount of interesting twists, so they’re entertaining to see.

A little more music comes with A Christmas Song from Dewey Cox. The two-minute and 45-second clip shows a music video style presentation in which Dewey sings a “Blue Christmas”-esque tune about how much his fans love him. It basically exists for the oft-repeated line “for Christmas, the people want Cox”.

A fake ad comes via a Cox Sausage Commercial with Outtakes. The whole thing lasts two minutes, 22 seconds as it shows a final version along with “mistakes” from Dewey. It’s fairly funny despite more “Cox” puns.

Song Demos come for 13 tunes. We get initial takes of “Walk Hard”, “Take My Hand”, “Let’s Duet”, “Guilty As Charged”, “There’s a Change Happening, “Beautiful Ride”, “(Have You Heard the News) Dewey Cox Died”, “Farmer Glickstein”, and “Your Eyes”. We also find demo versions of “Walk Hard”, “A Life Without You”, “Let’s Duet” and “Guilty As Charged”. The songwriters perform most of these; we get renditions by Marshall Crenshaw, Antonio Ortiz, Charlie Wadhams and Gus Seyffert featuring Eleni Mandell, Dan Bern, Mike Viola, and John C. Reilly. Fans will enjoy this compilation of demo cuts.

Six featurettes follow. Tyler Nilson: A Cockumentary runs five minutes, 56 seconds as it includes comments from Kasdan and actors Tim Meadows, Matt Besser, Chris Parnell and Tyler Nilson. It gives us a chat about Nilson’s penis; that organ also offers interview remarks. It’s a pretty dopey joke piece marred by way too many shots of Nilson’s dick. I may have nightmares.

For the three-minute and 45-second Bull on the Loose, we hear from producer Clayton Townsend, 2nd 2nd AD Ruby Stillwater, and transportation coordinator Denny Caira. The short piece shows how the filmmakers shot the scene in which a bull chases young Dewey and his brother. Despite its brevity, it throws out some cool observations and fun shots of the bull as he indeed goes on a rampage.

The Music of Walk Hard occupies 16 minutes, 42 seconds with notes from Reilly, Kasdan, Apatow, Morton, composer/music producer Michael Andrews, songwriters Dan Bern, Mike Viola, Charles Wadhams and Tom Wolfe, music supervisor Manish Raval, and actors Jenna Fischer, Jewel, Ghostface Killah, Jackson Browne and Lyle Lovett. The show looks at most of the film’s tunes and performances. Some great behind the scenes footage appears, and the comments help make this an informative little piece.

During the 15-minute and three-second The Making of Walk Hard, info arrives from Kasdan, Apatow, Reilly, Morton, Townsend, Fischer, Meadows, Bern, Viola, Besser, Parnell, production designer Jefferson Sage, costume designer Debra McGuire, and actors Kristen Wiig, Margo Martindale, and Raymond Barry. The program looks at the movie’s origins and influences, casting, characters and performances, cinematography, sets and production design, and costumes. At times “Making” leans toward fluffy promotion, but it gets good when it digs into the film’s visual and period challenges. The notes about the sets and influences are interesting and help make this a decent program.

A spoof comes to us with The Real Dewey Cox. It lasts 14 minutes, three seconds and features notes from Reilly, Lovett, Browne, Jewel, Ghostface Killah, Kasdan, Apatow, Wiig, Martindale, Townsend, Besser, Meadows, actors Ed Helms, David Krumholtz, Cheryl Tiegs and Harold Ramis, and musicians John Mayer, Sarah Evans, Sheryl Crow, Van Zandt, and Brad and Kimberly Paisley. This one looks at the influence of the “real” Dewey Cox and the challenges behind making a biopic. Yes, it’s a goof as it jokes about the truth of the matter, but it’s a fun goof, even with about 10 million “cox” jokes.

Finally, The Last Word with John Hodgman goes for 25 minutes, 58 seconds. This purports to show an interview program that specializes in subjects near death. Hodgman – who you’ll recognize as “PC” from those Apple commercials – chats with “Dewey” about his life and times. It also provides comments from Dewey’s band, Darlene Cox, his first wife Edith and Bobby Shad. It’s a good spoof of pretentious shows like Inside the Actor’s Studio and it consistently amuses. Actually, I think it’s more entertaining that Hard itself.

A few ads open DVD Two. We get clips for Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Steep and Blu-ray Discs. These also appear in the Previews area along with promos for Superbad, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Hancock, Across the Universe, We Own the Night, 30 Days of Night, Southland Tales, Monty Python’s Life of Brian and 88 Minutes.

Despite my hopes that it’d provide a great little parody, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story only occasionally entertains. It provides a fine cast and a smattering of solid laughs, but most of it just plods along without much point or wit. The DVD offers very good picture and audio as well as a terrific collection of supplements. I’m not wild about the movie, but this is a fine release.

Note that two separate Walk Hard DVDs are on the market. There’s also a single-disc release with just the theatrical version of the film and an abbreviated set of extras. This two-DVD release retails for only one dollar than the other package, so I can think of no reason to bother with it. The two-disc version includes all of the same materials plus plenty other tidbits in addition to the longer cut of the flick. It’s clearly the way to go for fans.

To rate this film visit the original review of WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main