Seventeen years after the conclusion of its six-year CBS network run, “The Dukes of Hazzard” is still seen in reruns daily on the Nashville Network. And with CBS now owning Nashville Network, synergy of this enterprise is inspired, if not exactly surprising. Creator and exec producer Gy Waldron has corralled most of the members of the original cast for a two-hour TV pic that should satisfy fans of the series, without breaking any new ground.
It’s been several years since cousins Bo, Luke and Daisy Duke have left idyllic Hazzard County, and all are headed home for a reunion. Bo (John Schneider) has become a NASCAR driver; Luke (Tom Wopat), a smoke jumper for the Forestry Service; and Daisy (Catherine Bach) is — following a bad marriage — in pursuit of a graduate degree from (imagine the coincidence) Duke (no relation) University. Back home, everything is pretty much as it was, with a few exceptions: Boss Hogg (Sorrell Booke) has died, with bumbling deputy Roscoe P. Coltrane (James Best) now running things. Cletus (Rick Hurst) is Coltrane’s deputy, town mechanic Cooter (Ben Jones) has been elected to Congress, and former deputy Enos Slate is a veteran of the Los Angeles Police Dept. Uncle Jesse (Denver Pyle) is on the verge of losing the family farm to out-of-town developer Mama Max (Stella Stevens), bent on turning most of Hazzard into a theme park. Jesse objects to having his farm appropriated as a right-of-way, and the whole thing turns into an automobile race, ending in a wedding. Subplot involves a “Tough Person” contest, pitting petite Bertha Jo (Cynthia Rothrock) against her massive fiance, Bubba (Travis McKenna). There are a couple of surprises for fans, and door is left wide open for at least one plot thread of a sequel. Other than the late Booke, only major series player missing from reunion is country star Waylon Jennings, who sang show’s theme (also MIA) and narrated. Don Williams, another Texan and country music star, fills in here; new theme is sung by Wopat and Schneider, both of whom had recording careers following demise of original series. Superficial appeal of series and movie was its attractive leads, comical supporting cast and plenty of stunt work, often involving the near-destruction of the Dukes’ 1969 Dodge Charger, the General Lee. Series also celebrated community and family: Even the most antagonistic characters, other than the occasional outsider, could behave with civility to one another. Show also reflected a cheerful pride in the rural South. All remain here, and the stunts — supervised by Paul Baxley — are terrific, particularly the end of an early chase through a speed trap, and climactic battle in a cotton mill. A bus full of musicians stops by the wedding, but if anybody gets out to play, scene remains on the cutting-room floor. Otherwise director Lewis Teague and editor Russell Livingstone keep convoluted story clear and moving, and pic looks sharp, if not especially costly.