Even ticketbuyers with a hearty appetite for hayseed humor may be repulsed by the coarse cornpone tomfoolery of “Beer for My Horses,” a ’70s-style redneck romp aimed at folks who felt intellectually challenged by the complex narrative stratagems of “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo.” This second second-rate star vehicle (after 2006’s “Broken Bridges”) for country music star Toby Keith opened in limited theatrical engagements Aug. 8, and likely will be available at Wal-Mart before Election Day.
Keith (who, displaying more ambition than ability, also co-scripted and co-produced) plays Rack, a small-town Oklahoma deputy sheriff who inadvertently collars a big-time Mexican drug dealer (Greg Serano) during a routine stakeout. When the dealer’s crime-lord brother (Carlos Sanz) kidnaps Rack’s girlfriend (Claire Forlani) to force the release of his sibling, Rack heads south of the border with two allies — a bumbling Barney Fife type (co-scribe Rodney Carrington) and a taciturn tough guy who’s handy with bows and arrows (rocker Ted Nugent) — to rescue his beloved.
Along the way, the three buddies and the captive dealer — referred to constantly, and disdainfully, as “the Mexican” — briefly encounter a traveling circus troupe (led by Willie Nelson at his most easygoing), cuing an oddly incongruous, borderline-surreal sequence that’s easily the most charming thing in the entire pic. Helmer Michael Salomon also manages one other grace note: a tense faceoff at a highway rest stop that amusingly evolves into a golden-oldie sing-along.
Except for these fleeting bits, however, “Beer for My Horses” (titled after one of Keith’s more popular songs) is hard going. Keith is blandly colorless, Carrington is gratingly cartoonish and most of the supporting players simply go through the motions. Pic overall comes across as a dismal mix of broadly played farce and clumsily unconvincing action, with a heaping side order of witless vulgarity (sample dialogue: “Well twist my nipples! Look who’s here!”). Not at all surprisingly, a flatulent dog also figures into storyline.
Tech values are no better than they have to be.