James Mangold’s 2005 Johnny Cash biopic ‘Walk the Line’ receives a thorough horsewhipping from Judd Apatow and his cadre of comedic gold diggers in ‘Walk Hard’, an amiable, if unabashedly scattershot, musical parody in which every gag that is funny is matched by another that is tiresome and vulgar.
Dewey Cox (John C Reilly, pictured right) is the country singing prodigy who, having accidentally sliced his older brother in half with a machete as a child, is desperately seeking reconciliation with his hateful father. Covering Dewey’s myriad artistic reinventions and subsequent lapses into drugs, adultery and light entertainment, the film’s relative strengths and weaknesses are captured in a scene in which, seeking spiritual guidance, he heads to India and bumps into The Beatles. Their ridiculous facial hair, ludicrous accents and internal bickering are funny for about 30 seconds but director Jake Kasdan has no idea when to shout ‘Cut!’.
Similarly, as he has proved in other supporting roles, a little Reilly goes a long way, and 96 minutes in his childlike, discombobulated presence isn’t the joyful experience that many would perhaps expect. He’s suitably daft in the title role but his performance suffers from being almost identical in tone and nuance to that of his ‘Talladega Nights’ cohort, Will Ferrell; there’s even a scene where he lollops down a street in a pair of oversized Y-fronts, wigged out on acid (the Ferrell trademark).
The one area where ‘Walk Hard’ does manage to hold its own against classics of the genre such as ‘This is Spinal Tap’ or ‘Sweet and Lowdown’ is the music, all of which is expertly written and performed and comes as sweet relief from the bawdy depths that the remainder of the film frequently chooses to plumb.