Gemma La Mana, Columbia Pictures
Jenna Fischer and John C. Reilly play lead roles in "Walk Hard."

WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY — ** 1/2 — John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer; rated R (vulgarity, drugs, nudity, profanity, violence, sex, slurs, brief gore)

Filmmaker Judd Apatow has been smart enough to contrast the crude comedy with surprisingly sweeter, heartfelt character moments in such hit productions as "The 40 Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up" and "Superbad."

Other Apatow productions, like "Anchorman" and "Talladega Nights," are dicier propositions because they're less character-intensive and are strictly comedic.

"Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," which he produced and co-wrote, falls into the latter category. It's a spoof of often-too-serious musical biographies like "Ray" and "Walk the Line," which definitely deserve such treatment.

And while its "Airplane"-like comedy approach does lead to some laugh-out-loud moments, it really runs out of steam in the second half, and it's very R-rated (especially in terms of its sexual content).

John C. Reilly stars as the title character, a successful musician who continues to be haunted by the accidental killing of his brother when they were children.

That probably explains some of the strife in his personal life. Dewey's had a pair of failed marriages ("Saturday Night Live's" Kristen Wiig and "The Office's" Jenna Fischer play the ladies in his life).

And his constant dabblings in drug culture have eroded his musical talent. He's now unable to write a hit song, which is unfortunate, because he's been recently "rediscovered."

As Reilly showed in the movie version of "Chicago," he has a fine singing voice. And that's definitely him performing songs here that spoof Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and others.

Reilly is also likably goofy, which goes a long way to redeeming the film.

Apatow and co-screenwriter/director Jake Kasdan has also packed the film with cameos. White Stripes singer Jack White is amusing as Elvis Presley, while Jack Black, Paul Rudd, Justin Long and Jason Schwartzman play the Beatles.

"Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" is rated R for crude sexual humor and references (sight gags and entendre-laden song lyrics), drug content (use of various hallucinogens and narcotics), full male and female nudity, strong sexual profanity, comic violence (temper tantrums, assorted mayhem and machete fights), simulated sex and other sexual contact, slurs based on race and ethnicity, and brief gore. Running time: 95 minutes.

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