While the rest of the world was getting teary-eyed watching Johnny Cash's older brother Jack die after an accident involving a saw blade in 2005's Walk the Line, Jake Kasdan and Judd Apatow must have been laughing hysterically. Between them, Kasdan and Apatow are already responsible for either writing or directing The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad and Orange County. Now they've decided to team up for a run at mockingly spoofing the life of the Man in Black.
They start by introducing us to Dewey Cox, a boy born in the 1930s who can't seem to dodge the shadow of his brother. Then they change that childhood accident into a Monty Python-esque "flesh wound" gag as Dewey cleanly slices his big bro in half with a machete. From there, the story meanders—too slowly for the comedy Walk Hard tries to be—through Dewey's rising-star years, his drugs-and-girls years, his down-in-the-dumps-rehab years, and finally his making-up-for-the-years-wasted years.
For decrying Dewey's "devil music," a priest gets punched in the nose by a high schooler. That same priest again invokes the devil's oversight of rock 'n' roll while standing approvingly by while Dad kicks Dewey out of his home. A lineup of well-known rock stars are compared to Cain and Abel and Old Testament prophets. A lyric in one of Dewey's songs reads, "I ain't askin' God to forgive my sins."
As if he's Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, Dewey's brother appears to him throughout his life as a ghost, alternately giving him advice—and the finger. Mom, Dad and a Dewey's old manager eventually join the ghostly cast.
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is flagrantly and specifically designed to give as much exposure to sexual double entendres as possible. They're woven into nearly every scene, be it happy or sad, serious or goofy. From the movie's triple-loaded title to the lyrics of the songs Dewey sings, dirty joke-style sex talk saturates everything. Subjects covered include—but are far from limited to—masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, homosexual sex, group sex, bestiality, and Dewey having sex with men who look like his dad.
On the visual side of things, the movie starts (relatively) slow by showing high school girls rip open their blouses to reveal bras as they swoon over Dewey's music. But it's not long before the camera turns its ogling eye on the multiple-partner sexual trysts and all-out orgies that dot much of Dewey's "career." Full, lingering shots of nude bodies, male and female, show everything, front and back, from all angles. Nothing is blurred or obstructed. Sexual motions are seen in several scenes. And when Dewey first has sex with his second wife, Darlene, the couple adds exaggerated combat to the mix to spice things up. She knees him repeatedly in the groin. They choke each other. They slam into walls.
Other sex scenes include a couple of views of Dewey "forgetting" that a bare-breasted woman is on top of him and that they're having intercourse. He gets into sexual positions several times with Darlene—in various stages of undress. And he's seen in bed with three people at a time. One of Dewey's male bandmates informs him that they slept together years earlier.
Overemphasized sexual moves (including oral sex) are choreographed into what a nightclub owner proudly calls "erotic dancing." A rapper gropes a female dancer's (clothed) breasts. One of the movie's last lines of dialogue comes from a fresh-faced high school girl who is attending Dewey's final performance. Seeing the star up close, she coos, "He f---ed my grandma!"
Three people get (comically) cut in half. Dewey's brother is the first. In two cases, we see both halves on the ground, with the upper half continuing to talk for some time afterwards. In the other case, the images are animated as Dewey "sees" himself being split in two during an LSD trip.
A bunch of people get punched out during a concert. A woman falls out of a second-story house window, crashes to the ground, then dies when she's smacked in the head by a radio. A half-dozen times Dewey expresses his rage and angst by ripping sinks off walls and generally trashing rooms. High on PCP, he uses his bare hands to flip a car (with someone in it) upside down, and he slams two policemen to the ground for good measure.
Paul McCartney and John Lennon scuffle and fight. A man is riddled with gunfire. In addition to the fight/sex she has with Dewey, Darlene slaps him across the face numerous times.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Many, many scenes show people smoking joints, snorting coke and otherwise getting high. A running joke revolves around one of Dewey's bandmembers gradually introducing him to increasingly "harder" drugs. Each time he mockingly warns Dewey away from joining him in back rooms and bathrooms as he experiments with marijuana, cocaine, PCP and, finally, Viagra. His exclamations of how dangerous each substance is are laced with accolades. About cocaine, for instance, he says, "It turns all your bad feelings into good feelings. It's a nightmare." Dewey indulges each time until he finally learns his lesson when they get to Viagra. He's also introduced to LSD by The Beatles.
Dewey "buys back" a bandmate's friendship by taking him a huge bag of weed. Beer and wine and hard liquor splash down in quite a few scenes.
Other Negative Elements
As boys, Dewey and his brother play with rattlesnakes, recklessly race around on tractors and horses, and entice a bull to charge at them. High on PCP, Dewey runs around outside wearing only mawashi-type underpants. Regaining his sense of smell after living for years without it, Dewey grabs a handful of manure and revels in its stench.
Hasidic Jews take a few lumps since they're stereotypically singled out as the sole "owners" of the music industry. Little people stand in for the Black Panthers as radical members of the "Short Panther Party." Dewey's solution to not being allowed to have sex with Darlene because they're not married is to promptly marry her—even though he's already married to another woman.
For laughs, much is made of Dewey and his father hating each other.
Clean comedy has nearly become an oxymoron these days.
Of course, throngs of outraged and shocked citizens have been saying that exact thing pretty much every year since moving pictures were invented—and probably well before. But it's much more difficult to argue against it now that Jake Kasdan (who wrote and directed Walk Hard) and Judd Apatow (who helped him write it and produced it) are the reigning kings of foul fare on the big screen. Plugged In Online called Apatow's The 40-Year-Old Virgin "outrageously abusive." "Comedic porn" is the label we assigned to his Knocked Up. And of Kasdan's Orange County, we asked, "Do teens really need another coming-of-age comedy that plumbs for laughs with vomit, necking lesbians and urine being mistaken for an alcoholic beverage?"
Would either man care to defend himself? No. To the contrary. "[Walk Hard] was just an opportunity for shameless penis promotion," says Kasdan.
Thanks for that bit of insight. I was going to give a nod or two to the movie's spot-on spoof songs, and the sometimes clever shots it takes at fame, at the evolving music world through the decades and especially at other musical biopics. Then I was going to rip it apart for including full-frontal nudity, obscene language and a massive number of scenes devoted to drug abuse. But I guess I don't need to. That one small Kasdan quote pretty much says it all.