Director: Jake Kasdan
Just as he did in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, in this skewer of musical biopics such as Ray and Walk the Line, actor John C. Reilly deftly walks the line (no pun intended) between comedy and drama for co-writers Judd Apatow (Knocked Up) and Jake Kasdan (Zero Effect) who as Rolling Stone noted crafted the screenplay over a series of “late-night phone calls.” Reilly stars as Dewey Cox, a Johnny Cash like musician who overcomes a tragic childhood of accidentally splitting his brother in half with a machete to become a best-selling rock ‘n roll star marrying 3 women and producing 22 kids and 14 step-kids in his couplings with 411 women as he becomes addicted to every drug he can get his hands on over the course of his career. Although his dad perpetually exclaims that “the wrong kid died,” and Cox tries to bury his guilt in orgies and substance abuse along with his tendency to rip out any lavatory sink standing in his way (a la Walk the Line), he finds a calming influence in his lust for cross wearing backup singer Darlene Madison (Jenna Fischer). Jenna Fischer is just one of many recognizable faces from not only her wildly popular sitcom The Office but other sources of brilliant comedy in shows like 30 Rock, Saturday Night Live, other Judd Apatow films, and Christopher Guest mockumentaries and Walk Hard benefits from the recognizable cast which, in any other film may have seemed like showboating but in something as freewheeling and irreverent as Kasdan’s movie, it’s a treat to see a good percentage of actors who have made us laugh in the new millennium all together in one film. While there’s some clever stunt casting of Jack White as Elvis and Frankie Muniz as Buddy Holly, the best cameo turns are by the comical stars chosen to portray The Beatles. In the brief scene they’re in, Jack Black (as Paul McCartney), Justin Long (George Harrison), Jason Schwartzman (Ringo Starr) and Paul Rudd (John Lennon) steal the film, which had veered off track after the brilliantly funny opening half hour and keep us engaged. Although the humor isn’t as fast or furiously funny in the overly long second half as it was in the first and fans of Kasdan’s previous films Zero Effect and The TV Set will find themselves a bit disappointed by the noteworthy lowering of the quality bar in his career, it’s an entertaining little movie that may play even better in family rooms with groups of friends than it did on the big screen. However, Reilly, who as Apatow notes “approaches [even a silly movie]... like he’s doing Casualties of War,” makes the film work even after the one-joke premise has begun to grow weary in its finale that, like Beyond the Sea (which may have been another film they were parodying) has a conclusion that doesn’t pay off as much as the filmmakers had hoped.