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The Series: Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
Where You Can Stream It: Netflix
The Pitch: Music biopics get spoofed spectacularly in this parody that’s every bit as good as the likes of Young Frankenstein, Spaceballs, Airplane!, and The Naked Gun. Primarily taking aim at Walk the Line, the movie hilariously charts the origins, rise to fame, downfall, and redemption of singer Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) as he weaves his way through various decades of the music industry, doing all sorts of drugs, cheating on his wife, meeting plenty of famous faces, and trying desperately to win the approval of his father.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is responsible for removing the shine from music biopics. After Ray and Walk the Line tread extremely similar territory and earned plenty of Academy Awards acclaim, Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan decided it was time to send up all the cliches from various movies telling the life story of many famous musicians. We’re talking about musicians who faced tragic hardships in their young years, found fame in music, dealt with the crass commercial side of the music business, got addicted to drugs, and lost their way in the spotlight.
This is a pitch perfect parody that hits all the sweet spots of music biopics, starting with the tragic death of Dewey Cox’s brother, who passes away after a particularly bad case of being cut in half with a machete at the hands of Dewey himself. It’s an accident that haunts Dewey for the rest of his life as he enjoys a meteoric rise to fame after his first song hits the top of the charts just 35 minutes after being recorded. From there, he follows the same path as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, one that takes him away from his teenage wife (Kristen Wiig) and their ever-growing roster of kids, and brings him into the arms of Darlene Madison (Jenna Fischer) as his own June Carter.
Along the way, Dewey repeatedly experiences a vicious cycle of getting bad news, trying a new drug courtesy of his drummer (Tim Meadows), getting addicted to it, and having it impact his musical career in some way, borrowing elements from the lives ofthe likes of Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, John Lennon, Ray Charles, James Brown, Jim Morrison, Brian Wilson, and more. He goes from being a rock and roll pioneer performing alongside the likes of Buddy Holly (Frankie Muniz) and Elvis Presley (Jack White of The White Stripes) to a Bob Dylan phase, a counterculture wave brought on by an LSD trip with The Beatles (Paul Rudd, Jack Black, Justin Long and Jason Schwartzman), and an unfortunate disco variety show period in the 1970s. And that’s just a fraction of the recognizable faces from comedy you’ll see throughout the movie.
Walk Hard essentially acts as one big montage of every hallmark in the history of music biopics. It absolutely shatters the illusion of telling an intimate and personal story about music’s biggest icons. Since being released in 2007, it’s been extremely difficult for any movie about a famous musician to be taken seriously without feeling full of itself. It’s one of the big reasons Bohemian Rhapsody was panned by many critics despite being a box office hit. Even Rocketman suffered from some of the same tropes despite being refreshed by the fantastical musical elements using Elton John’s music. Speaking of which, Walk Hard also has an outstanding soundtrack made up of original tunes that call back to classic songs from decades ago
Good parodies are hard to come by these days, especially without Mel Brooks and the team of Zucker, Abrams & Zucker working much anymore. Even so, Jake Kasdan gave us not only one of the best spoofs ever made, but one of the funniest comedies of the 21st century.
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