This is a movie that I’ve wanted to review for a while. I first heard about it from YouTuber Patrick Willems’ video “The Broken Formula of Music Biopics” as the movie that should have ended the music biopic. And when I saw it was going to leave HBO Max, I figured that I should take a chance to check out this movie I remember catching the end of on Comedy Central.
John C. Reilly plays the eponymous Dewey Cox, a famous rock star, in this parody of the musical biopic genre. After his brother Nate dies when he accidentally slices himself in half, Dewey is shunned by his father (Raymond J. Barry) and society, forcing him to run away with his high school sweetheart, Edith (Kristen Wiig). While working as a janitor at a nightclub, he takes a chance to win over producers after the club’s star Bobby Shad (Craig Robinson). After his hit song “Walk Hard” becomes a hit, Dewey is wrapped up in the world of rock and roll; he’s introduced to drugs by his drummer Sam (Tim Meadows), forms a relationship with Darlene (Jenna Fischer), and lives a life of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, through the history of music.
This is a movie where one performance bounces off the other characters, like a caffeinated pinball in an arcade. John C. Reilly gives such a performance that makes Dewey feel like an amalgamation of Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, and John Lennon. Reilly captures the personalities of the many influences. And the supporting cast shines as the many archetypes in the music biopic genre; Jenna Fischer and Reilly have a flirtatious relationship is the outlandishly on the nose and is a joy to watch. There are also cameos of famous artists like Frankie Muniz as Buddy Holly, Jack White as Elvis, and an entertaining portrayal of the Beatles from Paul Rudd, Jack Black, Justin Long, and Jason Schwartzman. Along with that is cameos from artists like Ghostface Killa, Jackson Browne, and The Temptations (who work for an amazing gag near the end).
Each plot point takes the familiar formula of musical biopics and ramps them up to the highest degree. From the childhood tragedy as tempting fate to the darkest drug meltdown consisting of multiple sinks ripped out and aggression towards roses, it exaggerates plot points and balances it with feeling earnest. The music compliments the story, reflecting the mood of the scene and times. From the teen bop of the 50s, dark period, and Bob Dylan-inspired folk music focused on making a statement of the times. Additional songs are peppered into the credits to show the further discography of the fictitious idol.
Watching this movie, I can say that this really is a modern cult movie. The cast gives dynamic performances that make the story come to life. And the story and music work hand in hand in this parody of music biopics. It balances parody with simultaneously playing earnest in its heart and celebration of the genre.