Cooter might not have been Georgia’s smartest greasemonkey. But boy, is the actor who played him on TV ever on point in warning people away from the film version of The Dukes of Hazzard.
It would be easy to write off Ben Jones’ call for a boycott over crude renovations to the show as a snub from an atypically cameo-free remake.
After watching it, the original cast should be thankful they weren’t asked to join this mess.
Admittedly, molding a vintage TV show into a modern movie is tough — you can’t ruthlessly mock without alienating the fans, nor can you play it exactly straight. Starsky and Hutch rode that line pretty well, and while you’re watching Dukes, you can’t help but think that Owen and Luke Wilson should have played Bo and Luke Duke with some supporting assistance from Jack Black and Will Ferrell. (You also can’t believe this is written by one of Starsky’s screenwriters.)
The Wilsons would be far better than Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville, who worked with more respectively challenging material in Dude, Where’s My Car? and Jackass. They play the cousins not as affable heroes, but as prank-playing morons who never quite seem to catch on.
Scott bumbles his way through a thinly written Bo, his strongest character trait being a quite-literal sexual affection for the General Lee. Also, his hair doesn’t look messy, but stylishly tousled and run through with a flattening iron.
Meanwhile, Knoxville, giving ladies-man Luke a perpetually gaping mouth, seems to have been cast for an ability to take groin shots and left hooks with conviction. Both of them leave you wondering what could have been.
The whole movie’s that way, littered as it is with DOA double entendres, gross jokes about panty fetishes, ridiculous references to The Usual Suspects and Super Troopers (courtesy of director Jay Chandrasekhar and his co-starring troupe of Broken Lizard cohorts), a botched blackface bit and buzz phrases such as “BFF,” “man-whore” and “bust a cap.”
That last one is uttered by Uncle Jesse, played by Willie Nelson as Willie Nelson. The last anyone knew, Jesse preferred shine to reefer. But then, Nelson couldn’t look as he always does in any movie he’s in — as if the director’s call for action interrupted an illegal activity.
And while it’s not hard for Jessica Simpson to nail the eye-candy factor of Daisy Duke, her Southern accent makes Kevin Costner look like a dialect coach by comparison.
There is a plot in this thing, cooked up by Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds). With his “fly in the ointment” speech and jailhouse taunting, he’s the only one who seems in on the proper tone here.
His Hogg wants to decimate Hazzard County to create a coalmine and distract citizens from voicing objections by holding an annual race at the same time as a public hearing. Invoking the Georgia Open Meetings Act in some sort of comedic context is too clever for the movie to attempt.
It is smart only once, in a scene examining how a Confederate-flag rooftop isn’t a good modern-day accessory. And the movie drums up manic rubber-to-the-road energy only in its climactic chase — one best enjoyed with noise-canceling headphones to drown out the idiotic dialogue.
With a $53-million budget and cars ready to be destroyed, why not just ramp up the chase factor? Place the Dukes on some long-distance driving mission over different-styled terrains while Boss Hogg tries to foil them. Don’t lump them in an exposition-heavy, laughs-free turkey.
The Balladeer always sang that the mountain might get the Duke boys someday. Who knew they’d crash the General Lee into it and explode?