February 20, 2008

CD Review: Walk Hard - The Dewey Cox Story Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

How do you go about making a worthwhile parody of a genre that needs a good spoofing? By playing it straight, that's how. That is exactly how Jake Kasdan and Judd Apatow approached Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. It sets its sights squarely on the biopic, and the musician sub-category. Even more specifically it seems the base was the Johnny Cash biopic, Walk the Line. The creative team of Kasdan and Apatow crafted a film that is strong in its own rights while successfully pointing out the problems with the biopic as a genre. Rather than just copy scenes from successful films of the genre (like the Epic/Date Movies), they played it serious. The result is a movie that is a comedy, but the performers play as if in a serious film, thus highlighting the cliches and conventions that infect it like a cancer. The movie turns into something quite funny and successful. Granted, the comedy is not for everyone, but then again, what is? A big part of the movie is the music, music that is played as straight as the film is.

Before you can think of the humor contained within this soundtrack, you have to consider the overall quality of the songs and the music. It is an odd thing to think that the music is actually any good from a parody, but it is. Seriously, the music on this album may not be the most original but there is a certain level of quality and a distinct catchiness. It is hard not to like this music, even if the humor is not immediately apparent it has a way of getting into your head and taking hold. Before you know it, you will be humming along in spite of yourself.

There was a lot of effort put into the songs. Beyond injecting them with humor, which is really only evident on a couple of the tracks, the writers (including Marshall Crenshaw, Mike Viola, Dan Bern, Michael Andrews, and star John C. Reilley) worked hard at making the songs authentic. They went so far as to research language usage and instrument usage to make them have as authentic a feel as possible. Their work paid off. The songs sound as if they were plucked right out of the era they were seeking to replicate. This includes songs styled after the likes of Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, and Bob Dylan, as well as psychedelic and disco eras.

Some of the songs lose a touch of their effectiveness when separated from the film, but for the most part they will take you back to moments of the film. Take, for example, "Take My Hand" which introduces Reilley playing a teenage Cox at a school talent show, or when Cox steps up as bandleader at a predominantly black club and sings "(Mama) You Gotta Love Your Negro Man." Also, how could you forget moments like the interview about Bob Dylan that gives us "Royal Jelly," or the genesis of "Walk Hard." Then there is the unforgettable double entendre laden duet with Darlene (played by the adorable Jenna Fischer), "Let's Duet," which is probably the most outright hilarious song on the album.

The lyrics tend towards the simplistic, but that is not a knock on them. They accurately reflect the simple and impressionable mind of Dewey Cox. He always latches onto whatever he most recently heard and sets out to make it his own in hie writing. Funny stuff.

Beyond the efforts of the writers, a good deal of credit should be given to John C. Reilley who does all of his own singing. He has a good voice and has a background in musical theater, not to mention being an Oscar nominee for his role in the musical Chicago. He sounds great on all of the songs and does a great job in the title role. It should also be mentioned that he even went on the road as Dewey Cox and did a full tour of these songs from coast to coast. Now what they need to do is release a Dewey concert DVD!

Bottomline. The movie is a blast, the music is a blast, and you really cannot go wrong with either one. The music is eminently listenable and catchy as all heck. Listen to it, love it, and recognize the musical genius that is Cox!

Highly Recommended.


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