|Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story|
Promotional poster, satirizing the famous Jim Morrison pose
|Directed by||Jake Kasdan|
|Produced by||Judd Apatow|
|Written by||Judd Apatow|
|Starring||John C. Reilly|
|Music by||Michael Andrews|
|Edited by||Tara Timpone|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$20.6 million|
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is a 2007 American comedy film directed by Jake Kasdan, and written by Kasdan and co-producer Judd Apatow. It stars John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Tim Meadows and Kristen Wiig. The plot echoes the storyline of 2005's Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line and 2004's Ray Charles biopic Ray. Walk Hard is a parody of the biopic genre as a whole.
As Walk Hard heavily references the film Walk the Line, the Dewey Cox persona is mostly based on Johnny Cash; but the character also includes elements of the lives and careers of Roy Orbison, Glen Campbell, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Donovan, John Lennon, James Brown, Jim Morrison, Conway Twitty, Neil Diamond, Hank Williams, and Brian Wilson. The film portrays fictional versions of artists Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles; also, some artists play themselves, including Eddie Vedder and Ghostface Killah. In addition, the film parodies or pays tribute to the musical styles of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Billy Joel, Van Dyke Parks with Brian Wilson, and the seventies punk rock movement.
The film was released in North America on December 21, 2007. It received positive reviews from critics, but was a box office bomb - grossing only $20 million against a $35 million budget. The film has since developed a cult following.
Dewey Cox begins his quest for stardom in Springberry, Alabama in 1946. While playing with his brother Nate, Dewey accidentally cuts his brother in half at the waist with a machete. The trauma of the incident causes Dewey to lose his sense of smell. After his brother's death is announced by a physician making a house call, Dewey's mother sends him to the local store to buy some butter and a candle. There, he meets a blues guitarist, who lets Dewey play his guitar. Dewey is a natural.
In 1953, after a successful and controversial talent show performance, then 14-year-old Dewey decides to leave Springberry with his 12-year-old girlfriend, Edith. They soon marry, have sex, and have a baby after 8.7 months. While working at an all-African American nightclub, Dewey gets a break when he replaces singer Bobby Shad at the last minute and impresses the Hasidic Jewish record executives attending the show that evening.
Dewey then is brought to the studio where he is interrupted while recording a rockabilly rendition of "That's Amore". The recording executive berates Dewey as talentless. Backed into a corner, Dewey makes the first recording of "Walk Hard", the song inspired by a speech Dewey gave to Edith.
Within 35 minutes, the song becomes a hit, and Dewey begins to get caught up in the fame of rock and roll. When Dewey stumbles upon a room of groupies smoking with drummer Sam, Sam introduces Dewey to marijuana. Sam tells Dewey to leave because he "don't want no part of this shit" (a running gag throughout the film) but Dewey eventually tries it and continues to do so every time he finds Sam with a new drug. His attitude and drug problems cause him to become unfaithful to Edith. Dewey's father then returns to inform Dewey that Dewey's mother has died while dancing to Dewey's song on the radio. Pa manages to make Dewey feel responsible for her death, contributing to an already high level of inner turmoil. Dewey is then introduced to cocaine, which leads to a change in his music to a louder, "Punk rock" type. With the addition of backup singer Darlene Madison, Dewey produces several more hit records. However, they become attracted to each other, and Dewey weds Darlene while still married to Edith, which leads to both women leaving him. He then snaps at his chimpanzee companion, who is "only concerned with fruit and touching himself". Dewey is eventually busted after purchasing drugs from an undercover cop, serves time in jail, and spends time in rehab before Darlene returns.
They move to Berkeley, California in 1966 at the beginning of the '60s counterculture movement. Dewey writes protest songs for midgets. His singing style is then compared by a reporter to that of Bob Dylan, which Dewey angrily denies.
During a band visit to India, Dewey takes LSD with The Beatles, which causes Dewey to lose touch with reality yet again and have a Yellow Submarine-esque hallucination. Dewey becomes obsessed with every aspect of the recording process and is consumed with creating his masterpiece entitled Black Sheep (a homage to Brian Wilson's Smile). The band does not appreciate his insane style of music and his continuous abuse of the others in the group. As a result, the band breaks up; Darlene is also unable to deal with Dewey's insanity and drug problems and leaves him. Dewey goes through another stay in rehab, where he is visited by Nate's ghost. Nate ridicules Dewey's self-pity and tells him to start writing songs again.
Dewey is next seen jogging into the 1970s, and hosting a CBS variety television show. But his song-block prevents him from writing a masterpiece for his brother. (In the director's cut, Dewey remarries again, this time to Cheryl Tiegs.) Nate appears again and tells Dewey that he needs to reconcile with Pa. Dewey soon confronts Pa and gives an emotional (albeit humorous) speech. Although Dewey's father appreciates his courage, he challenges Dewey to a fight to the death with machetes, having apparently preparing to do so for years. However, Pa accidentally cuts himself in half. Just before he dies, the senior Cox forgives Dewey and tells him to be a better father than he was. His death causes Dewey to have an emotional breakdown and he destroys almost everything in his home.
Dewey is then approached by one of his illegitimate children, and accepts that it is time to focus on spending time with his numerous children. Darlene returns to him in 1992, divorced and single. Dewey talks to Darlene about what he has done since they last met. After finally understanding what is most important to him, Dewey regains his sense of smell and they get remarried.
In the present day, L'Chaim's son Dreidel pays a visit to Dewey's estate. He informs Dewey that he has become popular with younger listeners through rapper Lil' Nutzzak's sampling of "Walk Hard". Dewey is upset about this at first, but pays it little mind when he is informed that he is to receive the lifetime achievement award. Dewey is reluctant to play a song at first, fearing the temptations he once succumbed to, but his wife, children and grandchildren put their full support behind him. Dewey reunites with his band and he is finally able to fulfill his dream of creating one great masterpiece that sums up his entire life with his final song, "Beautiful Ride". The ghost of his family listens to his song. A title card reveals that Dewey died three minutes after this final performance.
After the credits roll, a short black-and-white clip purporting to be "The actual Dewey Cox, April 16, 2002" is played. (The real Cox is again played by Reilly, but using a more gravelly voice.)
--Jake Kasdan, 2007
Jake Kasdan brought the idea to his friend and fellow director Judd Apatow. They then began writing the film together. The tongue-in-cheek references in this fake biopic were drawn from various sources. Apatow and Kasdan noted that they watched various types of biopics for inspiration, including those of Jimi Hendrix and Marilyn Monroe. Despite the humorous approach, the film was crafted in the serious tone of films earmarked for an Oscar, adding to the irony.
John C. Reilly, who actually sings and plays guitar, was chosen to play the title role. "We took the clichés of movie biopics and just had fun with them," Reilly said. The "deliberate miscasting" of celebrity cameos, such as Elvis Presley and The Beatles, was intended to enhance the comedy. The film's poster is a reference to the "young lion" photos of Jim Morrison.
The film, however, was not commercially successful, taking $18 million at the US box office which was less than the film's budget.
The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on April 8, 2008. In the opening weekend, 263,001 DVD units were sold, generating revenue of $5,110,109. As of May 2010, DVD sales have gathered revenue of $15,664,735.
Along with a backing band "the hardwalkers", Reilly made seven musical appearances as Dewey Cox in the weeks prior to the film's release date.
Several fake commercials were aired including one with John Mayer, hinting Dewey might be his father.
Singer-songwriters Dan Bern and Mike Viola (of the Candy Butchers) wrote most of the film's songs, including "There's a Change a Happenin'", "Mulatto", "A Life Without You (Is No Life at All)", "Beautiful Ride" and "Hole in My Pants". Charlie Wadhams wrote the song "Let's Duet". Marshall Crenshaw wrote the title song, and Van Dyke Parks penned the Brian Wilson-esque 1960s-styled psychedelic jam "Black Sheep" (the recording session seems to be a specific parody of Wilson's Smile album sessions, on which Van Dyke Parks worked). Antonio Ortiz wrote "Take My Hand". A number of critics noted the unusually high quality of many of the individual songs on the soundtrack, how well they reflected the styles and times they were attempting to parody, and how well they stood on their own as quality compositions. The soundtrack was nominated for both a Grammy and Golden Globe Award and was nominated and won the Sierra Award for Best Song in a Motion Picture from the Las Vegas Film Critics Society. John C. Reilly sang on all the tracks and played guitar on most of them.