Widescreen: 'Walk Hard' remains a perfect parody of music epics like 'Bohemian Rhapsody'
The Hollywood biopic of British rock legends Queen and Freddie Mercury arrives this weekend in theaters to tepid reviews, some of which invoke the name of one of the most criminally underrated and underseen films of the last 20 years.
"Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" parodies the sort of Cliff's Notes music film that "Bohemian Rhapsody" seems to be. Its hero, a talented, genre-shifting fool played by John C. Reilly, is most obviously modeled on Johnny Cash with just a hint of Brian Wilson for good measure. Reilly brings real pathos, a pleasing singing voice and impressive songwriting chops to a role that's also relentlessly funny -- few things have made me laugh harder than Dewey Cox's stint in a rehab hospital. ("He needs more blankets AND less blankets!")
Directed by Jake Kasdan ("Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle") and written by Kasdan and comedy impresario Judd Apatow, "Walk Hard" is an absurdist tour of American music in the 20th century that features a risque "Let's Duet" between Reilly and Jenna Fischer ("The Office"), a hilariously disastrous interview with Evergreen Park native Jane Lynch ("Glee") and cameo appearances from a veritable greatest-hits album of stars. (The Beatles are played by ... Jack Black, Jason Schwartzman, Justin Long and Paul Rudd?!)
Despite the over-the-top humor, "Walk Hard" manages to be both a perfect parody and the absolute best example of the music biopic -- when Reilly closes the film with a tearful retrospective song called "Beautiful Ride," we shed a tear as well -- even while Dewey embraces the severed torso of his father. (Yes, it's a strange film.)
St. Charles showcase
The First Wednesday Film Club, which features art, foreign, documentary and classic films, returns Nov. 7 to the Classic Cinemas Charlestowne 18, 3740 E. Main St., St. Charles, with "Puzzle," a Sundance Film Festival favorite starring Kelly Macdonald ("Trainspotting") as a suburban mom obsessed with jigsaw puzzles who finds solace in an Atlantic City puzzle tournament. Irrfan Khan of "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Life of Pi" stars as Macdonald's fellow "puzzler."
See showtimes and buy tickets at classiccinemas.com.
Drinks and a movie
The ArcLight Chicago, 1500 N. Clybourn Ave., offers two more chances to enjoy its Lights, Camera, Cocktails event before year's end.
Enjoy the John Candy/Dan Aykroyd comedy classic "The Great Outdoors" along with craft cocktails from the mixologists from Sportsman's Club at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7. For $40, you get one movie ticket, one serving of popcorn and three unique drinks -- one served before the film, one served with your popcorn and one served at the post-movie "wrap party."
If '80s outdoors high jinks aren't your thing, ArcLight will present Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" Wednesday, Dec. 5, along with custom cocktails from a new Japanese-style bar named Kumiko by mixologist Julia Momose.
Tickets are available online at arclightcinemas.com.
• Sean Stangland is a Daily Herald multiplatform editor. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanStanglandDH.