Southern Comfort

The plot of this film -- money-grubbing Boss Hogg tries to get a strip-mining permit to destroy the little town of Hazzard; Luke and Bo Duke try to thwart him -- is inconsequential to the point of being utterly forgettable, even while you're watching the film. But this should be no surprise. The TV show on which it's based (1979-85) was about mayhem and fast driving and skimpy outfits and bootlegging and yee-haw! -- just havin' a good ol' time. And the big-screen version of The Dukes of Hazzard is right on the button in capturing the spirit of the TV show.

In fact, this movie is a whole lot of fun, and some of it is downright hilarious. But much of it is just plain dumb. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

On the positive side, the casting is perfect. If Oscars were given for casting, this would be a shoo-in, at least for a nomination. Of course, most of the accolades would go for the faces and physical builds of the two lead actors playing these backwoods Georgia folks, not for their acting ability. Oh, Seann William Scott is quite fine as happy-go-lucky Bo Duke, the best driver in town. But he's played many varieties of this role -- sans the Southern accent -- before. And Johnny Knoxville has absolutely found his calling as Luke Duke -- as both the Lothario and the "brains" of the unit. But (and you knew this was coming), there's also the fascinating case of Jessica Simpson as Daisy Duke -- big smile, lots of curves, not much covering them. Simpson gives it her all as the Jeep-driving gal who knows how to turn on the sex appeal. (I actually find her to be annoyingly plastic.) But her all isn't much: Simpson's portrayal is less dimensional than the one dimension the character possesses. Fans of Simpson's singing, by the way, will have to wait till the raunchy post-outtake end credits to hear her uninspired version of "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'." It's not worth the wait.

But other than the unrelenting good ol' boy goofiness of the film -- not such a bad thing, really -- Simpson is about the only weak link here. Burt Reynolds as white-suited Boss Hogg slyly chews up every piece of dialogue he's given. And you can tell from the way he delivers it, it tastes mighty fine to him. The same goes for Willie Nelson, as master moonshiner Uncle Jesse, who likes to spice up everyday chatter with an endless stream of bad one-liner jokes. Alas, poor Lynda Carter, playing neighborly Pauline, a character who never appeared on the TV show, isn't given anything to do.

But the bright orange, rebel flag-topped General Lee is given plenty. The famous Dodge Charger is seen flying through the air less than a minute after the uncredited narrator opens the film with, "Welcome to Hazzard County." (Reports say 26 Chargers were used in the film -- more than a few of them bashed up just in the outtakes.) That car does a lot of flying and racing and crashing. It even gets torn up by bullets during one chase, from a gun that must be the most powerful heater in comedy since Joe Piscopo mentioned that his "shoots through schools" in Johnny Dangerously.

The film is ostensibly about the Boss Hogg business, as was most every episode of the show. But it's much more about cousins Luke and Bo, whose relationship can best be described as one of love and pranks. They're about as tight as friends can get, and will defend each other tooth and nail if there happens to be a bar fight. (There's a good one about 10 minutes in.) But they each keep going out of their way to put the other in discomfort, if not in danger, for the sake of a laugh. The stunts are as numerous as the car chases, and many of them look as if they came right out of story-planning sessions from Knoxville's old Jackass days.

There are great bits galore, including characters falling from second-story bedroom windows and the tops of barbed-wire fences; the uttering of such racy dialogue such as "Man, that rattled my sphincter" after a rather large explosion; and car chase after car chase, culminating in the 70th annual Hazzard Road Rally, which runs from track to street to backwoods paths. There could be no better conclusion than that kind of race in this kind of film. The Dukes of Hazzard is a study in being raucous solely for the purpose of being raucous.

The Dukes of Hazzard, rated: PG-13, directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, starring Sean William Scott, Johnny Knoxville, Jessica Simpson, Burt Reynolds.