"I'm gonna have to shake my ass at somebody to get 'em out," laments Jessica Simpson's Daisy Duke of her cousins The Dukes of Hazzard ("That's why we love you, honey," Willie Nelson's Uncle Jesse replies). As promising as Simpson's rump-shaking sounds, we too share a sinking feeling about where the plot of the latest TV remake is heading. Though I can't claim to speak with authority on the subject, this Warner Brothers comedy seems faithful to its 1979-85 TV forebear, aside from putting Boss Hogg on a diet. But faithfulness to crap still gets you crap.
The Dukes of Hazzard are Bo and Luke Duke (Sean William Scott and Johnny Knoxville), cousins who live to drive, drink, and be merry, especially at each other's expense. Though they're not on good terms with Hazzard County police, their nemesis is Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds), a local fat cat who's "crooked as a hillbilly smile" (unfortunately for Burt, it's a shit-eating grin). The Duke boys, as they're usually called, drive a 1969 Dodge Charger with a Confederate flag painted on top: the famous General Lee. Both stars get a chance to slide across the hood and leap through the windows before demolition-derby chases. Boy, is this ever the right property for Scott and Knoxville, the ultimate typecast bad boys.
Burt Reynolds and Willie Nelson don't need this kind of grief and embarrassment, and the plastic-fantastic Simpson takes women's rights back to the stone age in her big-screen debut. The Hee Haw humor takes the movie on a doltish detour to an Atlanta college campus, the better to arrange a pot-smoking scene with hot co-eds. Back on the ranch, Bo practices his archery hobby with a state-of-the-art bow and flaming arrows, Cooter (The Dukes of Hazzard's Scotty) does repairs on the General Lee, and Jesse explains wonders why he gave up three toes in Korea for a country where a man can't make moonshine in peace. Remember: friends don't let friends go to The Dukes of Hazzard sober.
Director Jay Chandrasekhar of Broken Lizard (Super Troopers, Club Dread) manages a few post-modern touches too smart for the room. In a couple of scenes, he acknowledges the Confederate flag's presence with two kinds of reactions: Southern rah-rah or aggressive shame aimed at the Dukes. In the film's opening sequence, Bo sits in the General Lee and listens to the cassette tape Racing Greats: Al Unser Jr. (as read by Laurence Fishburne) while Luke tries to pork a farmer's daughter. Lizards Michael Weston and Kevin Heffernan play supporting roles, with the director cropping up as a campus policeman in a further nod to Super Troopers. And no need for a double take: that really is Joe Don Baker (Walking Tall's Buford Pusser) as the governor.
But mostly, Jonathan Davis' script—as revised by John O'Brien, Broken Lizard, and, unofficially, the cast—adheres to the series' "Yee-hah!"s (I counted at least eight) and shit-kickin', Southern-fried narration over freeze-framed images of the General Lee in action ("If you have to go to the bathroom, now would be the wrong time"). Plenty of room, then, for silly battles over moonshine, a Byzantine plot to absorb real-estate by distracting the entire county with a road rally, and admittedly entertaining automotive stunts that mostly involve shooting the General Lee off of a variety of makeshift ramps. Let the nostalgic drinking games begin!