Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (UK - BD)
Scott McKenzie checks out this comedy biopic from producer Judd Apatow...
When young Dewey Cox's brother dies in a terrible accident, his father all but disowns him, telling him that 'the wrong kid died' at regular intervals throughout his life. Dewey is visited by the ghost of his brother, who tells him that he has to live his life for both of them and he decides to make it as a professional musician. We follow Dewey's career as he rises, falls and rises again via rock and roll, protest songs, psychadelia and ultimately hip hop, with more than a knowing nod to recent musical biopics and popular musicians of the 60s and 70s.
I'll be honest right off the bat and say that I wasn't expecting much from Walk Hard. I haven't seen many of Judd Apatow's movies, but those that I have didn't impress me enough to think he's the saviour of modern comedy, as some critics are billing him. Emperor's new clothes? Maybe that would be a little harsh but I had my hopes pinned on something like an average Saturday Night Live skit-turned-movie at best. What I ended up watching wasn't exactly the funniest movie I've ever seen, but it did surpass my rather low expectations.
There are two versions of the movie included on this Blu-ray release—the 96-minute theatrical version and the 'Unbearably Long Self-Indulgent Director's Cut', which clocks in at two hours. I watched the director's cut for this review and was pleased to discover that there is an option to watch the movie with an icon in the corner to tell you when you're watching an additional scene. The director's cut is long, far too long for a comedy popcorn movie, but there are extra gags and songs thrown in so it's not quite as unbearable as the title may lead you to believe.
Walk Hard is camped firmly in the spoof genre, sending up musical biopics like Walk the Line and Ray. However, unlike incredibly heavy-handed spoofs like the Scary Movie franchise, Walk Hard plays with genre conventions with a little more subtlety and puts more faith in the audience's intelligence. Anyone who watched the serious movies that went before it will know that a tragedy will befall Dewey's brother early on and there is a lot of fun to be had working out just which one of their misadventures will end in his untimely death. Looking back on the movie as a whole, I'd say it would be possible to edit the whole thing down into a trailer for a more serious movie, such is its adherence to the structure and predictable beats in the against-all-odds story.
The music is also a big plus and I didn't expect the songs to get stuck in my head from a movie that's supposed to make me laugh. A lot of work has obviously gone into the quality of the songs, with some of them not necessarily designed to get big laughs, although the duet between Dewey and Darlene is one of the comedy highlights. There are a lot of nice cameo appearances from Jack Black, Harold Ramis and Seth Rogen to name a few, and Jack White's turn as Elvis is very funny. The only serious problem I had with the movie was the rather unnecessary number of racial gags, which aren't really to my taste in the volume they can be found here.
Taking visual cues from the biopics that inspired it, Walk Hard looks back on a contrived past through rose-tinted specs and as a result, the picture is very colourful. Scenes focusing on Dewey's childhood are washed with a sepia tone and the rest of the movie in bright, in particular the animated sequence. As you may expect from a high definition release of a recent movie, the detail in the picture is impressive and the blacks are as dark as you could hope for, but I have to wonder how many punters out there would choose to pick up a comedy movie in 1080p for more than twice the price of the standard definition DVD.
Walk Hard comes with TrueHD 5.1 options in English and Spanish, and also includes an audio description option, along with a decent selection of standard Dolby 5.1 options in other languages. The quality of the audio track is very good, with the music predictably playing a major role. Dialogue is clear and not drowned out by the background music. However, I did notice that the volume goes up a notch whenever one of the musical numbers kicks in. This isn't much of a problem but if you start off with it turned up to nine, your neighbours may start banging on the wall when the music turns it up to ten.
The audio commentary track includes Jake Kasdan, Judd Apatow, John C Reilly and Lew Morton. They state early on that the commentary track for the theatrical version is an edit of the commentary for the longer version, so if you're planning on listening to it and don't want to miss out on anything, you may as well pick the longer track. It's an enjoyable chat between four people who obviously had a good time working on the movie, but John C Reilly makes a point of mentioning that before making Walk Hard he had originally intended to make a serious music biopic with Jack White.
'The Real Dewey Cox' is a parody, including interviews with music types as if he were a real singer. Even though there are plenty of jokes in the movie focusing on his name, in this featurette Sheryl Crow delivers the best 'Cox' gag of all. 'The Music of Walk Hard' looks at the work that went in to creating the songs and different music styles of the movie. Behind the scenes footage shows how much work went in to creating and recording the songs and also how they worked around Reilly's vocal limitations.
'Line-O-Rama' is a compilation of alternative versions of key lines and is useful to understand where the actors were improvising some of their lines. There are three deleted scenes that didn't make it into the longer cut. In actual fact, two of them are extended versions of scenes that made the cut and the third is an alternative 'bad trip' scene that was probably left out for good reason next to the animated scene in the final cut. There are also full versions of six song performances from the movie for those of you who loved the music so much that you have to come back for more. It's worth noting here that the menu is good value as well, showing different album covers from Dewey Cox's career, which parody album covers of the different decades.
Walk Hard is a more enjoyable experience than I was expecting, with both the comedy and the quality of the music serving the movie well in equal measures. This high definition release looks and sounds great in 1080p and TrueHD and the extras complement the movie well, although there aren't any Blu-ray exclusives on offer. For that reason, I'll reiterate my previous point of recommending that you consider the standard definition DVD unless you're the world's biggest fan of this movie or you've got a few extra quid to spare.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 12th May 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Czech Dolby Digital 5.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1, Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1, Polish Dolby Digital 5.1, Russian Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: Arabic, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish
Extras: Commentary, Director's Cut, Full Song Performances, Deleted Scenes, Line-O-Rama, The Music Of Walk Hard, The Real Dewey Cox
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jake Kasdan
Cast: John C Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Jack Black, Frankie Muniz, Jack White, Harold Ramis
Genre: Comedy and Musical
Length: 120 minutes