Dir. Jake Kasdan, US, 2007, 96 mins
Cast: John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Kristen Wiig
Review by Carol Allen
Producer Judd Apatow, who co-wrote the film with Kasdan, raises great expectations from his previous work - 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. This mock pop star biopic, which is a sort of mixture of Spinal Tap in subject and Airplane in pastiche, doesn't quite meet those expectations but still it's a lot of fun and has some really neat references to "serious" movies in the genre, for the purpose of which Dewey Cox (Reilly) embraces virtually every musical genre in the course of his fictional career..
As in Ray, we first meet Dewey as a dirt poor child (Conner Rayburn), playing with his elder brother, who is the apple of his father's eye. So when Dewey accidentally decapitates his brother in a blackly comic accident, which is signalled a mile off and handled with just the right touch, Dewey has a suitable guilt trip to haunt him throughout his life. At 15, now played delightfully inappropriately by Reilly, he marries his child bride sweetheart (Wiig), who bears him numerous children and becomes the clingy, whining wife, whom he soon leaves for the love of his life, fellow singer Darlene (Fischer). Somewhere along the line, we're told, he also sleeps with 409 other women in the course of his climb to fame, his decline as he battles with every drug known to man, arriving eventually at aged icon status.
The pastiche of the various musical incarnations Dewey goes though are in the main very funny, particularly a take off with Darlene of Johnny Cash and June Carter as in Walk the Line, while a sequence of Dewey with the Beatles and their guru in India is a joy, particularly the bickering between Lennon and McCartney (good cameos from Paul Rudd and Jack Black). At one point Dewey goes though a mock "Bob Dylan taking himself very seriously" phase, which could almost be a send up of Cate Blanchett's performance in I'm Not There. Reilly is a very good actor and he seizes his comic opportunities with relish. The songs, some of which were written by him, are good pastiche too. Raymond J. Barry plays Dewey's lugubrious dad from hell and Tim Meadows is very funny as Dewey's drummer, who introduces him to all those drugs – "and he never paid for any of them", he complains.
The film is not as relentlessly hilarious as it needs to be, which means it does sag in places, when it should be zapping along. It also features, albeit briefly, one of the most unconvincing Elvis impressions ever seen. Despite those provisos though it is still an entertaining movie.