As Hollywood wonders why audiences are staying away from theaters, the studios fail to confront the real reason: Their movies reek like decaying corpses — which isn’t so much metaphor as literal explanation when you consider that this has been a summer populated by such boob-tube zombies as Bewitched and The Honeymooners, which followed last year’s Starsky & Hutch and two gaseous Charlie’s Angels movies not worth the price of emission.
The latest undead offering is The Dukes of Hazzard, a redo of a hit show that was already so awful that the filmmakers really had to try hard to do it one worse. They succeeded. The pitch alone is terrible: combine the “comedy” team behind Super Troopers and Club Dread, Broken Lizard, with the show about hillbilly cousins Bo and Luke Duke, second fiddles to a 1969 Dodge Charger adorned with a Confederate flag and a horn that blows “Dixie.” The result does not disappoint: If it’s not the worst movie of the year, it’s only because Dukes arrives late in a game populated by such contenders as Be Cool, Bewitched and Bad News Bears.
Unbelievably, director and co-writer Jay Chandrasekhar, writer John O’Brien (Starsky & Hutch) and Chandrasekhar’s Broken Lizard mates use an old Dukes script as their jumping-off point — specifically, the episode “Farewell, Hazzard,” about efforts to strip-mine the Georgia town — then give it a race-car twist to rev the engines of the NASCAR nation. The filmmakers keep intact the show’s conventions: the theme song (performed by Waylon Jennings), the voiceover narration, a plot that involves little more than extended scenes of police cars chasing the General Lee down dirt roads. Apparently, there are some who believe that Dukes of Hazzard should be treated as a sacred text. These are the people who anxiously await big-screen makeovers for B.J. and the Bear and The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo.
The filmmakers, of course, have made alterations to lure the teenager not yet born when Dukes was on the air, casting Seann William Scott, Stifler from the American Pie trilogy, as Bo Duke; Jackass Johnny Knoxville as Luke; and, as Daisy, Jessica Simpson, who is required to do little more than disrobe every few minutes. To keep the old-timers content, they’ve rounded out the cast with aging whore Burt Reynolds as Boss Hogg, Willie Nelson as Uncle Jessie, and Joe Don Baker as the governor of Georgia.
Only Scott gives anything resembling a performance; he has the timing of a Rolex and tries like hell to keep the thing from going to hell. But the movie should at least put an end to Johnny Knoxville’s efforts to make it as an actor, an experiment that’s already resulted in the worst John Waters movie ever made (A Dirty Shame), which is saying something. He’s good at but one thing: getting hit in the balls with stuff. Perhaps his acting career is meant to give the audience some idea of what that feels like.
The movie has all the bite of a fourth-grader’s doo-doo joke; it almost appears to be unfunny on purpose, kind of like a Bergman film.