Thursday, May 19, 2011

A hard look at Walk Hard

Media Moment: Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
Queen-related: Freddie satirized

This DVD had been sitting on our mantel waiting to be watched after I borrowed it from a friend many months ago, and since I needed a distraction while on the treadmill last night, I figured I would give it a go. I was pleasantly surprised at how clever the storyline was and really impressed not only with John C. Reilly’s ability to carry a tune but also in impersonating the great singers from the past 50 years. And yes, it is him singing, as confirmed in both the end credits and the DVD commentary.

With the success of Ray in 2004 and Walk the Line in 2005, it was time for a parody of the music biopic genre and Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan were just the hooligans give it a go in 2007. Using Airplane as their satirical model, they managed to pack a ton of clichés, parodies, one-liners, and visual gags into Cox’s fictional 50-year run. I was hoping Freddie would get a working over since Bowie and the Beatles get skewered later in the film but unfortunately, there was nothing Freddie or Queen-related from what I could tell.

After the film and my treadmill torture was over, I checked out Dewey Cox on IMDb to see what interesting bits of trivia I could find. Lo and behold, I found this:

“Famous musicians that are spoofed by Dewey Cox are: Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, David Bowie, Queen, Meat Loaf, David Crosby, Jim Morrison, Harry Chapin, Don McLean, Elvis Presley, The Cars, Christopher Ward of the Ramones, Nelly, Tim McGraw, Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys during his “SMILE” album period, Stevie Wonder’s loss of smell after his 1973 car crash, and Michael Jackson with the monkey and the giraffe as house pets.”

Wait a minute . . . did I read that right? Cox spoofs Queen? I certainly didn’t see anything that referenced Queen in the movie. How could I have missed it? Then it dawned on me . . . maybe the reference appears in the Director’s Cut, also on the DVD I borrowed. Or maybe the commentary by Apatow, Kasdan, and Reilly would give some insights into where the overlooked scene was.

Before I do that, though, I thought I might find more information on its celebrity skewering on Wikipedia:

“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 life and career of Glen Campbell, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Donovan, Brian Wilson and Jim Morrison. 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.”

What? No mention of Queen on Wikipedia? Why is there a discrepancy between IMDb and Wiki on this? Well, there was only one way to know for sure . . . I’d have to watch the Director’s Cut frame-by-frame with the commentary turned on.

The only scene that comes close to imitating Freddie is the royal cloak that Cox wears onstage during a segment of his fictional Dewey Cox Show from the 1970s. The segment, incidentally, struck me more as a parody of Richard Simmons than Queen. (Wait a minute, maybe I just found the connection in this scene.)

Other than the cloak, I have no idea where Queen’s history would have been parodied. Sure, there are numerous drug scenes and a full-on orgy scene in a hotel room with lots of penis footage, but I think it would be a stretch to think that Freddie’s antics would be solely reflected in these sequences. Most major music stars have been culprits in this regard.

Bottom line . . . the jury is out on exactly how or where Queen is referenced in this film. IMDb says it is. Wikipedia says it isn’t. And there was nothing in the audio commentary about Queen at all.

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