Rock star biopics are mercilessly mocked in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, a spoof that skewers muso-movie cliches while also boasting a terrific, toe-tappin' score and a charismatic central performance from its Johnny Cash-alike lead, John C Reilly. His Cox rises from humble beginnings to world-conquering success, guzzling drugs and wooing women en route, while co-writer/director Jake Kasdan and co-writer Judd Apatow (Knocked Up) prick the pomposity of films such as Walk The Line and Ray, with occasionally lewd and repetitive - but largely hilarious - results.
Like so many prodigies, Cox is haunted by a childhood trauma - in this case a playfight with machetes that left his saintly brother sliced in two. As the doctor says, "It's a particularly bad case of somebody being cut in half." This gory scene sets the tone: outrageous and surprising, teetering on the brink of going too far, but cheeky enough to get away from it. It's a mix familiar from previous Apatow fare - including Anchorman and Superbad: crude but somehow charming.
"REILLY LENDS THE SILLINESS A CERTAIN EMOTION"
That said, Walk Hard is hardly subtle. It doesn't have smarts of This Is Spinal Tap or its acute observational humour. And it inevitably loses a little puff once it settles into the structure of the films it's aping, until the climactic concert restores the gag rate (The Temptations joke is a classic) and even, bizarrely, lends the whole 90 minutes of silliness a certain emotion, thanks largely to the humanity of Reilly, one of our best supporting actors graduating to star status, finally bound for glory.
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is out in the UK on 18th January 2008.