PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

How hilarious, you can imagine someone pitching, the word "Cox," repeated over and over, makes for all sorts of double entendres.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Director: Jake Kasdan
Cast: John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Kristen Wiig, Tim Meadows, Chris Parnell, Matt Besser, David Krumholtz, Raymond J. Barry
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Columbia Pictures
First date: 2007
UK Release Date: 2008-01-18 (General release)
US Release Date: 2007-12-21 (General release)

Start with the name. How hilarious, you can imagine someone pitching, the word "Cox," repeated over and over, makes for all sorts of double entendres. Indeed. "I need Cox!" shouts a stage manager at the start of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, and you can just imagine Beavis and Butt-head giggling and mumbling: "He said 'Cox'!"

Add to this the wholly easy target, the musical biopic, and oh my god, the laughs are looking endless. Think of it: in Springberry, Alabama, little cupey Dewey (Connor Rayburn) and his better, smarter, more beloved and talented brother Nate (Chip Hormess) make their way down to the swimming hole one sunny day, extolling the perfection of the moment, underlining just how ideal their futures look. The jokes keep coming: following a montage of horrifically dangerous activities, they find the one that will change their fates.

That act of devastation -- Dewey cuts Nate in half with a machete -- is bizarre to the point of absurdity, just the spot where Will Ferrell takes his sports movie spoofs: "Dewey!" wails Nate's torso, looking over at his legs, still standing, "I'm halved!" Their dad (Raymond J. Barry) arrives on the scene just in time to scold them for playing with his machetes, and then to lay on Dewey the mantra that shapes his self-image: "The wrong kid died." The eight-year-old becomes 14 (now played by John C. Reilly), who finds his way out of Springberry through music, first the blues ("I done a bad thing cuttin' my brother in half"), then some general amalgam of rock-hillbilly-pop, the sort of tunes played by boys in school sweaters and feathery hairstyles. When the girls swoon, the adults accuse him of playing "the devil's music," and Dewey's set to move on: "I don't need nobody," he tells his parents on the way out the door. "All I need is my music."

That, and the obligatory first wife from back home, here Edith (Kristin Wiig), pregnant at 13 and not exactly thrilled that Dewey's still mopping floors in juke joints, just waiting for his big chance, which he gets when the black James Brownish regular loses his voice. The domestic arguments take the usual shape ("I do believe in you," she protests, "I just know you're going to fail"), designed to send him into the arms of his new big-haired duet partner, Darlene (Jenna Fischer, reprising her Blades of Glory part, sans skates). "In my dreams, you're blowin' me," he sings to her on stage, "Some kisses."

All the hardy-har penis jokes come to an admittedly clever head during a druggy hotel room party, when Dewey and company lie wasted among a throng of breasts and long legs. Relaxed or exhausted, Dewey looks up to listen to one of his buddies, his upper body out of frame, his limp penis fully visible. Face to dick, the men discuss the "distance growing between us," until Dewey's pa shows up at the door and the son has to explain himself yet again. Such comedy might be expected, given that Walk Hard is co-written by Judd Apatow, chronicler du jour of adolescent male self-loving, but they're based in repetition, and so, by definition, get old.

The formula calls for "stages," marked as musical styles (R&B, punk, Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, as well as disco), by numbers of babies on Edith's hips, and of course, by drugs. On each occasion Dewey walks in on his best friend Sam (Tim Meadows) with women in a back room, the seduction is made irresistible as soon as Sam says, "You don't want no part of this shit!" (An interlude in India with John [Paul Rudd], Paul [Jack Black], Ringo [Jason Schwartzman], and George [Justin Long] combines the two staging devices, and goes on too long.) The third or fourth version of the Sam-as-source-of-drugs gag is exponentially less funny than the first (as this instance is already familiar from so-called straight bioipics), but the DTs -and-hallucinations sequence must be set up, and so, you endure.

This feeling that you have to sit through a whole lot of predictable jokes to get to one or two surprises weighs on Walk Hard. By the time you get where you know you're going, the journey's mostly forgotten.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.