I was prepared to really hate this movie. But I didn’t.
I was ready to leave the theater with a big, cornbread-flavored chip on my shoulder, huffing about unfair representations of white Southerners. Instead, I left a little homesick.
I was prepared to be saddened by what I was sure would be a blight on the good name of the Dukes of Hazzard County. Instead, I found myself once again marveling at the Hemi-charged flight of the General Lee.
Perhaps it’s because my expectations were so low that I was able to enjoy this movie, but I think it was more than that. It was the General Lee.
In recreating a beloved TV classic, director Jay Chandrasekhar and writer John O’Brien undoubtedly knew they weren’t ever going to please everyone with casting. Let’s be serious—there has never and will never be another Tom Wopat. But they did what they could. Burt Reynolds as Boss Hogg and Willie Nelson as Uncle Jesse are hard to take issue with. Jessica Simpson was sizzling as Daisy Duke without being overly sleazy. And, then there were the Duke boys— I never did quite buy Johnny Knoxville and Seann Michael Scott as Luke and Bo, but they were all secondary. You know why?
Because this movie got one thing perfectly, beautifully, roaringly right. The General Lee.
The rumbling, orange, ’69 Dodge Charger was in top form, and the director was smart enough to let the General steal almost every scene he was in. The writers even found a way to get the car’s Confederate-flag paint job past the political correctors. For not sacrificing the Stars and Bars on the altar of tolerance, the writers were rewarded with one of the funniest scenes in the movie—the Duke boys caught in stand-still, Atlanta traffic while, unbeknownst to them, the flag of the Confederacy flies on their roof. The gag did exactly what this movie was supposed to do. It brought Bo and Luke into the 21st century without sacrificing their Southernness, and it did it in a surprisingly clever way.
Of course, Southernness requires an accent—one that Hollywood has a special way of butchering. But Scott and Knoxville’s attempts were respectable. Keanu Reeves, Demi Moore, and other more respected professional pretenders should be ashamed that they were shown up by the dialectic abilities of Stifler and Jackass. They weren’t perfect, but they weren’t grating or British-sounding. Oddly, native Minnesotan Scott pulled it off with more success than Tennessean Knoxville and Texan Jessica Simpson, who tried just a little too hard.