Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Promotional poster, satirizing the famous Jim Morrison pose
Directed by Jake Kasdan
Produced by Judd Apatow
Jake Kasdan
Written by Judd Apatow
Jake Kasdan
Starring John C. Reilly
Jenna Fischer
Raymond J. Barry
Margo Martindale
Kristen Wiig
Tim Meadows
Chris Parnell
Matt Besser
Music by Michael Andrews
Cinematography Uta Briesewitz
Editing by Tara Timpone
Studio Relativity Media
Apatow Productions
Overbrook Entertainment
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) December 21, 2007 (2007-12-21)
Running time

Theatrical Version: 96 minutes

American Cox: The Unbearably Long Self-Indulgent Director's Cut (Director's Cut): 120 Minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $35 million[1]
Box office $20,575,243[1]

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is a 2007 music comedy film written and produced by Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan, directed by Kasdan and starring John C. Reilly. The plot echoes the storyline of 2005's Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line; Walk Hard is also a parody of the biopic genre as a whole.

As Walk Hard heavily references the film Walk the Line, the Dewey Cox persona is mostly based on Johnny Cash; but the character also includes elements of the lives and careers of Roy Orbison, Glen Campbell, Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Donovan, John Lennon, James Brown, Jim Morrison, and Neil Diamond. The film also directly lampoons artists Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, Elvis Presley and The Beatles, in addition to some artists playing themselves, including Eddie Vedder and Ghostface Killah. In addition, the film parodies or pays tribute to the musical styles of Bob Dylan, David Bowie and the seventies punk rock movement.

The film was released in the United States and Canada by Columbia Pictures on December 21, 2007.



A young Dewey Cox (Conner Rayburn) begins his quest for stardom from humble beginnings in Springberry, Alabama in 1946. While playing with his brother Nate in a sequence of needlessly careless and dangerous acts, talking about the things he plans to do in his long life, Dewey accidentally cuts his brother in half at the waist with a machete. This leads Dewey's father (Raymond J. Barry) to frequently repeat the phrase "The wrong kid died" throughout the film. It is this traumatic event that motivates Dewey to rise to stardom and "be double great for the both of us" as Nate made him promise. The trauma also causes Dewey to lose his sense of smell -- "you've gone smell blind," states Dewey's mother. After his brother's death is announced by a physician making a housecall, Dewey's mother (Margo Martindale) sends him to the local store to buy some butter and a candle. There, he meets a blues guitarist (David "Honeyboy" Edwards), who lets Dewey play his guitar. Dewey is a natural.

After a successful, yet oddly controversial, talent show performance, then fourteen-year-old Dewey (now played by John C. Reilly) decides to leave Springberry with his newly-identified 12-year-old girlfriend, Edith (Kristen Wiig). They soon marry and have a baby; Edith begins to criticize Dewey and insist that his dream of being a musician will never happen. Dewey preaches to his wife that life is never easy; it's a long hard walk, but he will walk hard. While working at an all-African American nightclub, Dewey gets a break when he replaces singer Bobby Shad (Craig Robinson) at the last minute, much to the delight of the Hasidic Jewish record executives attending the show.

Dewey then is brought to the studio where he is interrupted while recording a rendition of "That's Amore". The recording executive (John Michael Higgins) berates Dewey as talentless. Backed into a corner, Dewey makes the first recording of "Walk Hard", the song inspired by the speech Dewey gave to Edith. The song is an immediate success and launches Dewey's career.

Within 35 minutes, the song becomes a hit, and Dewey begins to get caught up in the fame of rock and roll. When Dewey stumbles upon a room of groupies smoking with drummer Sam (Tim Meadows), Sam introduces Dewey to marijuana. Sam tells Dewey to leave because he "don't want no part of this shit" (a running gag throughout the movie) but Dewey eventually tries it and continues to do so every time he finds Sam with a new drug. His attitude and drug problems cause him to become unfaithful to Edith. Dewey's father then returns to inform Dewey that Dewey's mother has died. Pa manages to make Dewey feel responsible for her death, contributing to an already high level of inner turmoil. Dewey is then introduced to cocaine, which leads to a change in his music to a louder, "punk" type. With the addition of backup singer Darlene Madison (Jenna Fischer), Dewey produces several more hit records. However, they become attracted to each other, and Dewey weds Darlene while still married to Edith, which leads to both women leaving him. Dewey is eventually busted after purchasing drugs from an undercover cop, serves time in jail, and spends time in rehab before Darlene returns.

They then move to Berkeley, California, in 1966 at the beginning of the '60s counterculture movement. Dewey writes protest songs for dwarfs, mimicking Billy Joel's "Piano Man". His singing style is then compared by a reporter to that of Bob Dylan, which Dewey angrily denies. In the next scene, a music video shows that Dewey's new song mimics Dylan's style, including opaque lyrics ("The mouse with the overbite explained/how the rabbits were ensnared/ and the skinny scanty sylph/ trashed the apothecary diplomat/ beating the three-eyed monkey/ within inches of his toaster-oven life.").

During a visit with his band to India, Dewey and Darlene take LSD with The Beatles (an uncredited Paul Rudd, Jack Black, Justin Long, and Jason Schwartzmann), which causes Dewey to lose touch with reality yet again and have a Yellow Submarine-esque hallucination. Dewey becomes obsessed with every aspect of the recording process and is consumed with creating his masterpiece entitled Black Sheep (an homage to Brian Wilson's Smile). The song includes orchestral instrumentation and bizarre effects. The band does not appreciate his insane style of music and his continuous abuse of the others in the group. As a result the band breaks up; Darlene is also unable to deal with Dewey's insanity and drug problems and leaves him. Dewey goes through another stay in jail and rehab, in which he is visited by Nate's ghost (now played by Jonah Hill; explaining that that is how he would look now had he not been killed). Nate angrily criticizes Dewey telling him to "get his shit together" and start writing songs again.

Dewey is next seen jogging into the 1970s, and is now hosting a CBS variety television show. Dewey has song-block and is having a lot of trouble trying to write a masterpiece for his brother (in the director's cut, Dewey remarries again, this time to Cheryl Tiegs.) Nate appears again and tells Dewey that he needs to tell Pa that he loves him, which Dewey does. Although Dewey's father appreciates his courage to say it, he decides the only way to settle their disagreement is to fight to the death with machetes. However, Pa accidentally cuts himself in half. Just before he dies, the senior Cox - realizing how easy it is for someone to accidentally be cut in half with a machete - forgives Dewey, and tells him to be a better father than he was. His death causes Dewey to have an emotional breakdown and he destroys almost everything in his home, starting with the sink (another running gag throughout the film).

Dewey accepts that it is time to focus on spending time with his numerous children. Darlene returns once again, this time in 1992 as Dewey begins his senior years. At one of their children's birthday parties, Dewey talks to Darlene about what he has done since they last met. After finally understanding what is most important to him, Dewey regains his sense of smell.

In 2007, Dewey becomes popular with younger listeners through rapper Lil' Nutzzak's sampling of "Walk Hard". Dewey is upset about this at first, but pays it little mind when he is informed that he is to receive the lifetime achievement award. Dewey is reluctant to play a song at first, fearing the temptations he once succumbed to, but his wife and children put their full support behind him. Dewey reunites with his band, and he is finally able to fulfill his dream of creating one great masterpiece that sums up his entire life with his final song, "Beautiful Ride." Dewey dies 3 minutes after the performance.



Production and development

I just had this idea to do a fake biopic — or a real biopic about a fake person — and follow a musician's career trajectory.

Jake Kasdan, 2007[2]

Jake Kasdan brought the idea to his friend and fellow director Judd Apatow. They then began writing the film together.[2] The tongue-in-cheek references in this fake biopic were drawn from various sources. Apatow and Kasdan noted that they watched various types of biopics for inspiration, including those of Jimi Hendrix and Marilyn Monroe.[3] Despite the humorous approach, the film was crafted in the serious tone of films earmarked for an Oscar, adding to the irony.[4]

John C. Reilly, who actually sings and plays guitar, was chosen to play the title role. "We took the clichés of movie biopics and just had fun with them," Reilly said.[2] The "deliberate miscasting" of celebrity cameos, such as Elvis Presley and The Beatles, was intended to enhance the comedy.[5] The movie's poster is a reference to the "young lion" photos of Jim Morrison.[6]


The film was praised by notable critics, including Roger Ebert, who gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, and it garnered 75% positive reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, certifying it "fresh". The movie did not find an audience, however, and there were only $18 million in domestic receipts, below the film's budget.[7]

John C. Reilly received a Golden Globe nomination for his role, as well as for singing the title song.

It has become a cult favorite due to its many reruns on cable TV.

Home media

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc[citation needed] on April 8, 2008. In the opening weekend, 263,001 DVD units were sold, generating revenue of $5,110,109. As of May 2010, DVD sales have gathered revenue of $15,664,735.[8]

Promotional appearances

Along with a backing band "the hardwalkers", Reilly made seven musical appearances as Dewey Cox in the weeks prior to the film's release date.[9]

  • December 5, 2007 - Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (Cleveland, OH)
  • December 6, 2007 - The Cubby Bear (Chicago, IL)
  • December 7, 2007 - Stubb's BBQ (Austin, TX)
  • December 8, 2007 - Mercy Lounge (Nashville, TN)
  • December 10, 2007 - Great American Music Hall (San Francisco, CA)
  • December 13, 2007 - Guitar Center on Sunset Blvd. (Los Angeles, CA)
  • December 19, 2007 - Knitting Factory (New York, NY)
  • December 19, 2007 - Performed in the character of Dewey Cox on Good Morning America.[10]

Several fake commercials were aired including one with John Mayer, hinting Dewey might be his father.


Singer-songwriters Dan Bern and Mike Viola (of the Candy Butchers) wrote most of the film's songs, including There's a Change a Happenin', Mulatto, A Life Without You (Is No Life At All), Beautiful Ride and Hole in My Pants. Charlie Wadhams wrote the song Let's Duet. Marshall Crenshaw wrote the title song, and Van Dyke Parks penned the Brian Wilson-esque 1960s-styled psychedelic jam Black Sheep (the recording session seems to be a specific parody of Wilson's Smile album sessions, on which Van Dyke Parks worked).[2] Antonio Ortiz wrote Take My Hand. A number of critics noted the unusually high quality of many of the individual songs on the soundtrack; how well they reflected the styles and times they were attempting to spoof and how well they stood on their own as quality compositions. The soundtrack was nominated for both a Grammy and Golden Globe Award and was nominated and won the Sierra Award for Best Song in a Motion Picture from the Las Vegas Film Critics Society. John C. Reilly sang on all the tracks and played guitar on most of them.


  1. ^ a b "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)". Box Office Mojo. 2008-01-13. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=walkhard.htm. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  2. ^ a b c d Hiatt, Brian (2007-08-09), "The Next 'Spinal Tap'?". Rolling Stone. (1032):20
  3. ^ Apatow, Kasdan and Reilly Walk Hard. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
  4. ^ Breznican, Anthony (2007-09-11), "'Walk Hard' riffs on greatest rockers", USA Today, volume and issue unknown:01d
  5. ^ Breznican, Anthony (11/23/2007), "'Walk Hard' takes a run at musical legends", USA Today, volume and issue unknown:3e
  6. ^ Faraci, Devin (2007-11-29) "THE DEVIN'S ADVOCATE: THE JUDD APATOW BACKLASH" CHUD.com Retrieved 2007-12-13
  7. ^ "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/walk_hard/. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  8. ^ "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story - DVD Sales". The Numbers. http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/2007/WHARD-DVD.php. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  9. ^ "JOHN C. REILLY LEADS "COX ACROSS AMERICA TOUR" IN CHARACTER". Paste Magazine. 2007-12-03. http://www.pastemagazine.com/action/article/5985/news/music/john_c_reilly_leads_cox_across_america_tour_in_character. 
  10. ^ "Dewey Cox performance on Good Morning America". Good Morning America. 19 December 2007. http://test.redlasso.com/service/svc/clip/playClip?fid=423b00e1-c7d6-45c4-9b65-d1158d2e24d2. 

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