½ star (out of four)
Wouldn't the world be a wonderful place if we all had a Jessica Simpson in our back pocket, her feminine wiles ready and waiting to smooth over a sticky situation?
Forgot to write that paper for 18th Century lit? "Prof, I'm not exactly prepared, but look! It's Jessica Simpson in really short shorts!" Caught speeding on the highway? "I'm not sure how fast I was going, officer, but Jessica Simpson wants to give you a hug!" War not going so well? "Hey soldiers, Jessica Simpson's here to entertain!" Nothing to say about a lame and thin movie starring Jessica Simpson as Daisy Duke? Jessica Simpson. Jessica Simpson. Jessica Simpson.
But not even a sexy, toned and blossomed blond can distract from the vapid ugliness that is "The Dukes of Hazzard," Jay Chandrasekhar's misguided attempt at resurrecting the rubber-burning, moonshine-swilling, Confederate-flag-waving South of television past.
In case you were classy on Friday nights between 1979 and 1985, "The Dukes of Hazzard" pits cousins Bo and Luke Duke (played in 2005 by Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville)a couple of good ol' boys who deliver Uncle Jesse's bathtub gin, tear up the backwoods in their muscle car and pleasure townie womenagainst Hazzard County's cigar-chomping crooked commish, Boss Hogg (here, Burt Reynolds in an intentionally ill-fitting white suit).
This episodeI mean, moviehas the Dukes trying to save Hazzard from Hogg's evil plot to strip-mine its family farms and prominently features Simpson's derriere and ample bosom any time the Duke boys need a diversion. But the real star here is the General Lee, an orange '69 Dodge Charger with the uncanny ability to withstand an enormous amount of wear and tear and run over many policemen. Thing is, the General isn't such a great character actor and its aggression toward the cops never feels like it comes from an honest place. By the time it crashes into a squad car and takes flight for the, oh, umpteenth time, all of your energy is focused on getting that car to stall.
Commenting on performances here is like critiquing the production design of a pornoit's beside the point. Briefly: Knoxville, bad choice, man. Reynolds, you make a good villain. Simpson, lovely posing. Scott, you're from Minnesota and it showsbut I bet stunt driving school was fun.
The deeper problemand believe me, there's nothing deep about this flickis that Chandrasekhar tries to pass off this whole mindless, mean-spirited mess as good old American fun. An everyman narrator tells us at the outset that "some folks say Hazzard is where apple pie was invented," and producer Bill Gerber apparently came to this film by "searching for a project that really captures the American spirit."
And nothing says "God bless America" like uneducated, bar-fight-happy hillbillies with a seething disdain of law enforcement and the aforementioned flag painted on the rooftop of their NASCAR-ready car. (The question my sensitive Tribune co-workers have asked me most about this movie is, "How did they handle the Confederate flag?" And they "handle" it by having the car go in for service flagless and come out with a whole lot of Southern pride, which horrified Atlanta city folk point out to the naiveand therefore blamelessDuke boys.)
Though the Dukes' distrust of authority in Hazzard is warrantedSheriff Roscoe is the less genteel arm of Boss Hoggwhen they start spitting in the face of Atlanta cops, the excruciating all-in-good-fun vibe goes from vacant to ugly. If you watched the all-star salute to "Sweet Home Alabama" on this year's Grammy Awards, you know the feeling.
Not to get my daisy dukes in a bunch, but organized tsk-tskers should stop being outraged by Sen. John McCain's appearance in "Wedding Crashers" and start wagging fingers at this small-minded approach to red-state America. And another thing: Hollywood needs to take a good, hard look at . Hey, dude, it's Jessica Simpson!
'The Dukes of Hazzard'
Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar; written by John O'Brien; photographed by Lawrence Sher; edited by Lee Haxall and Myron Kerstein; production designed by Jon Gary Steele; music by Nathan Barr. A Warner Bros. Pictures release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:46. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, crude and drug-related humor, language and comic action violence).
Bo Duke - Seann William Scott
Luke Duke - Johnny Knoxville
Daisy Duke - Jessica Simpson
Uncle Jesse - Willie Nelson
Boss Hogg - Burt ReynoldsCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times