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Walk Hard tells the tale of Dewey Cox, a musical prodigy whose musical career spanned the 50's to the 70's. Along the way Dewey takes lots of drugs, bangs lots of groupies and eventually learns that the path to happiness lies in spending time with his dozens of illegitimate children. It's not the kind of a movie you watch for the plot.
Walk Hard stars John C. Reilly, who spent a year recording 40-plus of the songs that his character supposedly wrote. He proves himself to be a more than capable singer and he approaches the ludicrous situations with the same sincerity he uses in his more serious dramatic turns (The Aviator, Magnolia, Gangs of New York).
Walk Hard provides examples of:
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: "I never realized until this moment how easy it is to accidentally cut someone in half with a machete..."
- Affectionate Parody: To musical biopics generally, and Walk the Line and Ray more specifically.
- As You Know / Captain Obvious: Any celebrity who appears will loudly announce who they are multiple times. This is done to self-consciously highlight the fact that they (intentionally) put absurdly little effort into imitating the celebrities they're supposed to be.
George Harrison: It's so dark in this tent, y'know, it reminds me of when we, the Beatles, the four Beatles...
- Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity: As Dewey's life crashes around him, one of his many sons asks him if he'd like to play catch. This simple act acts as a catalyst for him rebuilding his life.
- Binge / Drunken / Sad Times / Sex Montage: "God damn, this is a dark fucking period!"
- Biopic: Parodied. Very much.
- Casting Gag: Jack Black and Jack White both in cameos. Don't try to convince yourself this is a coincidence
- Cluster F-Bomb: Dewey's brother. Well he is played by Jonah Hill...
- Country Matters
- Cover Version: One of the songs attempted during Dewey's first recording session? A country version of "That's Amore". It's so bad that it shakes the producer's faith in the Jewish people.
- Creator Breakdown: Dewey's lengthy and bizarre production of his masterpiece during the The Sixties is taken from Brian Wilson's infamous Smile album.
Dewey: I want 50,000 didgeridoos!
- Many of Dewey's other songs are also not-entirely-well-veiled references to other issues going on in his life as well (from his difficult relationship with his father to how he'd very much like to sleep with his backup singer).
- Dawson Casting: Parodied. John C. Reilly plays Dewey as a fourteen-year-old and keeps mentioning his age just to underscore the ridiculousness.
- To say nothing of Edith, played by 34-year-old Kristen Wiig!
Edith: I'm his girlfriend! I'm his 12-year-old girlfriend!
- Dead Little Sister: Dewey's brother.
- Do Not Do This Cool Thing: See Drugs Are Bad below.
- Double Entendre: The entire "Let's Duet" sequence.
Dewey: In my dreams you're blowin' me, some kisses / You and I could go down, in history / I'm gonna beat off, all my demons.
- Here I am a-sneaking up behind you/You can always come in my backdoor
- Drugs Are Bad: Parodied -- Dewey frequently opens a door to find Sam behind it, indulging in some illicit narcotics in the company of some beautiful women. Sam always insists that Dewey wants no part of it, only to then insistently list all the benefits of doing that particular drug. Dewey inevitably ends up hooked on it.
- But he really doesn't want none of that stuff that gives you a boner.
- "It's marijuana, Dewey. You don't want no part of this shit." "It's cocaine, Dewey. You don't want no part of this shit." "We're doing pills-- uppers and downers. It's the logical next step for you.""I want me some of that shit!"
- Duet Bonding: Dewey and Darlene.
- Erotic Eating: Dewey and Darlene do this with soft-serve ice cream cones in the Let's Duet montage.
- Eureka Moment: Every song Dewey comes up with.
- Executive Meddling: Sony cut over twenty minutes (including an entire subplot that was shown in the trailers) from the film before it opened. They also released it in a crowded Christmas season, letting it die against the also music themed Sweeney Todd and Alvin and The Chipmunks.
- Explosive Breeder: Edith is constantly pregnant, she and Dewey have approximately 10 children in less than seven years... Dewey himself has several dozen more over the years.
- "Falling in Love" Montage: Seen between Dewey and Darlene. As it happens, their montage includes such questionable activities as licking, sucking, slurping ice-cream cones with very ambiguous expressions...
- Not to mention the highly suggestive carpentry.
- Fan Disservice: John C Reilly, naked. Ew.
- In the extended cut, this is actually avoided in one scene where an obvious body double with heavily muscular features is used during a sex scene.
- Fanservice Extra: Dewey has some really good-looking groupies.
- First Girl Wins: Subverted with Dewey eventually falling in love with his back up singer, Darlene and divorcing his first wife, whom had previously won.
- Flashback Stares: Right before he begins an act, Dewey can be found staring at a wall in the dark, backstage. His best friend explains that he has to think back on his entire life before every show.
- Hates the Job, Loves the Limelight: Dewey fell HARD during The Seventies.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Near the end, Dewey is stumbling around fighting off "The Temptations". Cue the clean-cut boy band.
- It Will Never Catch On: At the height of his hard drug problem, Dewey starts shouting instead of signing and telling his band to play extremely fast and dissonantly. One of his band members is disgusted by the result -- nobody's ever going to listen to this garbage, especially not with Dewey singing like some kind of "punk".
- Jerkass: Dewey Cox
- Lampshaded Double Entendre
Darlene: You know I suffer the same temptations you do. Sometimes when I'm lyin' in bed, I ache for a man's touch... and by a man's touch, I mean a penis in my vagina.
- Mad Artist: Dewey plays this up in his Creator Breakdown.
- Male Frontal Nudity
- From the Roger Ebert review:
Note: I must mention one peculiar element in the film. As Reilly is having a telephone conversation, a male penis is framed in the upper right corner of the screen. No explanation about why, or who it belongs to or what happens to it. Just a penis. I think this just about establishes a standard for gratuitous nudity. Speculate as I will, I cannot imagine why it's in the film. Did the cinematographer look through his viewfinder and say, "Jake, the upper right corner could use a penis"?
- Naked People Are Funny
- The New Rock and Roll: The movie parodies the panic over rock and roll in the 1950s; at his high school talent show, Dewey and his band perform a sweet, gentle pop ballad called "Take My Hand" about two people holding hands. It immediately turns all the teenage girls present into sex-crazed nymphos, the teenage boys into violent thugs, and causes the older generation to picket Dewey's house with Torches and Pitchforks screaming about how he's going straight to hell:
- Non-Singing Voice: As Jenna Fischer has admitted, she can't sing. Angela Correa dubbed over the songs for the Darlene Madison character.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Averted as the fake celebrities keep mentioning that exactly who they are, no matter how bad the impression is.
- Offing the Offspring: Dad's ultimate plan for Dewey. It backfired.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Parodied mercilessly by "The Beatles", particularly by Jack Black as Paul McCartney, who practically delivers each of his lines with a different accent.
- Redemption Equals Death: Dewey's father, who realizes how easy it apparently is to accidentally cut a person in half with a machete only after being cut in half with said machete.
- Running Gag: Everytime something goes wrong for Dewey, he rips one or more sinks off the walls.
- "Wrong kid died!"
- "Get outta here, Dewey! You don't want no part of this shit!"
- "You're never gonna make it!"
- Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll
- Show Within a Show: Dewey's schlocky 70's TV show.
- The Sixties (Parodied)
- Spirit Advisor: Dewey's brother
- The Stinger: We catch a glimpse of "the real Dewey Cox."
- Stunt Casting: Parodied - many of Dewey's buddies are themselves (Real Life) famous musicians... who are often played by (intentionally) ludicrously miscast famous actors (such as Frankie Muniz as Buddy Holly and Jack Black as Paul McCartney). Similar to the Dawson Casting example, they intentionally keep referring to themselves by name to underscore the absurdity.
- Stylistic Suck: (Played with) There are numerous spoof songs that evoke everything from Johnny Cash to Bob Dylan to the Beach Boys, but they're all funny and well done.
- Take That: Dewey constantly pulling sinks out of the wall serves as one to Walk the Line.
- The Beatles deliver one to their bandmate Ringo, as they remind him he should be glad they let him keep playing the drums.
- Tantrum Throwing: A standard event when Dewey experiences some life setback.
- Tempting Fate: Pretty much every single thing Nate says before they play machete fight.
- The Unfavorite: Dewey to his father.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Spoofed to hell and back. Everything he does is designed to impress his father, but no matter what he does, he gets only one response:
Dad: The wrong kid died!
- Even when the scene when he FINALLY starts to enjoy his son's music and dances with his wife, his wife dies tragically when she dances out the window and blames Dewey for it.
- He even sings that while there's nobody else around.
- Word Salad Lyrics: Parodied during Dewey's 'Dylan' phase.
Mailboxes drip like lampposts in the twisted birth canal of the coliseum
- Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Dewey's brother was ludicrously talented and ambitious. Dewey, not so much.