When retired U.S. Special Forces Soldier Chris Vaughn (Johnson) returns to Kipsat County Wash. it's only to find his hometown overrun with crime drugs and violence. The old mill where Chris's father (John Beasley) worked for most of his life is closed and the town's only thriving industry is the Wild Cherry casino. Even Chris' high school sweetie Deni (Ashley Scott) couldn't resist the Wild Cherry's lure; she's become a peepshow dancer to "pay the bills." But Chris really loses it when he discovers the casino's dealers are using loaded dice--and he starts a brawl that ends with the security team carving up his chest and abdomen with a rusty Exacto knife. Chris also learns that that his old high school rival the casino's owner Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough) has transformed the mill into a crystal meth lab and is using the casino's menacing security staff to sell the drugs to innocent kids. Chris strikes back by running for sheriff firing the entire police department on his first day and with the help of a cedar two-by-four and his deputy and buddy Ray Templeton (Johnny Knoxville) restores peace to the Pacific Northwest.
Johnson looking buffer than ever is well cast in the role of Chris: He's a fearless and determined soldier with beyond-human fighting skills. But while the film takes advantage of Johnson's brawn it fails to take advantage of his brain. In last year's comedy The Rundown Johnson proved he was more than a muscle-bound action star; he oozed charm and was surprisingly witty. With Walking Tall he never gets a chance to flex his acting muscles; if anything they atrophy. The only skills Johnson gets to show off are his ability to swing a plank at someone's shins and his unique way of bashing skulls against slot machines. Johnson's sidekick Ray played by Knoxville of MTV's Jackass fame is an ex-junkie who after spending a couple of years in the slammer is content with living in a camper and doing odd jobs around town. With his scraggly appearance and klutzy demeanor Knoxville supplies the film with brief interludes of humor amid the slam fest including a scene in which he stabs a bad guy with a potato peeler. Johnson and Knoxville would have made a first-rate action team had they had more screen time together.
A WWE production with Vince McMahon serving as executive producer Walking Tall has none of the subtlety of director Kevin Bray's last film All About the Benjamins and all the elements of a wrestling match. As with wrestling the film begins by melodramatically establishing the story (Chris and his family's lives are devastated by the mill's closure) and just like rival pugilists who publicly taunt the favored wrestler Chris challenges Jay--not for the world title but at least for control of Kipsat County--in a never-ending battle between good and evil that mimics wrestling to a T. But what's entertaining in the ring doesn't translate to film especially when the good guy running the town is a maniacal meathead. Chris is supposed to be the protagonist who single-handedly saves the town but who's responding to the citizens' domestic violence calls for example when the sheriff fires the entire precinct and spends 24 hours a day casing the casino? Never mind the fact that he has sex with his girlfriend in his office while he's on the clock.
Top Story: J.Lo Proclaims Her Faithfulness
Jennifer Lopez wants the world to know that she didn't sleep with fiancé Ben Affleck until she separated from her then-husband, dancer Cris Judd. Lopez told Reader's Digest in an interview released Thursday that she was, in fact, "a very faithful person." Lopez and Affleck, arguably Hollywood's most-talked-about couple, met in 2001 on the set of the upcoming comedy Gigli, but the 32-year-old singer/actress said she and Judd were already having problems at that point in their marriage. Lopez filed for divorce from Judd in July 2002--after less than a year of marriage--and became engaged to Affleck, 30, four months later. Lopez said that after two failed marriages, she was working hard at her new relationship. "We talk about everything (with) brutal honesty ... And when you do that nothing's left to chance," she said. Gigli opens nationwide Aug. 1.
OK! Says Zeta-Jones Photos Flopped
The former editor of celebrity rag OK! says sales of its issue covering the wedding of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas fell well short of expectations after rival magazine Hello! printed unauthorized photos of the nuptials, The Associated Press reports. Martin Townsend said OK!, which paid the couple $1.62 million for the exclusive pics, sold 836,000 copies of the edition--just a quarter of the July 1999 issue covering David and Victoria Beckham's wedding. A judge ruled in April that Hello! breached the couple's commercial confidence by printing photos of elaborate wedding at New York's Plaza Hotel in November 2000. Zeta-Jones and Douglas are seeking $800,000 from the magazine.
Jerry Lee Lewis and Sixth Wife Split
There's a whole lotta shakin' going on for Jerry Lee Lewis and his sixth wife, Kerrie McCarver Lewis. According to the AP, the two are suing each other for divorce. Lewis, 67, filed a divorce petition April 16 while the 40-year-old McCarver, president of Lewis' JKL Enterprises Inc. fan club, sued in May, asking for an injunction ordering Lewis to pay unspecified child support, temporary alimony and all medical bills. She also seeks to bar him from any transfer or disposing of assets until a full accounting is made. The two were married in 1984 and have a 16-year-old son, Jerry Lee Lewis III.
Asian-American Group Protests Fox's Banzai
Some 20 members of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans protested Thursday Fox's airing of Banzai, saying it demeans and stereotypes Asian people, Reuters reports. The show is a parody of a Japanese game show and features an off-screen announcer speaking in a spoofed Japanese accent,
phony Japanese language symbols, and a karate-chopping Asian host known as Mr. Banzai. "It's just all the backward images of Asian-American people," the group's co-founder, Guy Aoki, told Reuters. "This is like an Asian
minstrel show. Can you imagine the black version of Banzai?" The program, which first ran on Channel 4 in Britain, debuted to strong ratings last Sunday.
NBC Airs Racy Promos for Coupling
Threesomes and bisexuality? Over the weekend, NBC aired promos for the racy new sitcom Coupling, an Americanized version of the racy British show of the name set to bow Sept. 25 following Will & Grace. One of the five comedy-driven ads for the show--which revolves around the dating lives of six thirtysomethings--even featured the word (gasp) erection. But the show's racy content hasn't scared off advertisers. AdWeek.com reports that Procter & Gamble, Revlon, Pfizer, Pepsi, Pizza Hut, Johnson & Johnson, General Motors, Mazda and Unilever have commitments to the show.
Metallica Lawsuit Ruse Floods Web, Radio
Radio stations and Web sites were flooded yesterday with news that Metallica was supposedly suing a Canadian band called Unfaith for trademark infringement over the use of "Metallica-branded" chords E and F. The story, however, turned out to be a joke concocted by 29-year-old Erik Ashley. According to Courttv.com, the scam sent users to an MTV.com story about the suit, which included a link to a fictional response from the band. "We're not saying we own those two chords, individually," said drummer Lars Ulrich in Ashley's spoof. "We're just saying that in that specific order, people have grown to associate E, F with our music." Ashley told Courttv.com that he never expected the ruse to catch on. "Would people go so far as to believe that something this extraordinary, this outlandish, could conceivably be true?"
Role Call: Jimmy Fallon Takes Taxi With Queen Latifah
Saturday Night Live anchor Jimmy Fallon will make his starring debut in director Tim Story's Taxi for 20th Century Fox. The film, produced by Luc Besson, is remake of the French comedy a harried detective trying to thwart a group of bank robbers. Queen Latifah will costar as a cabbie who chauffeurs him around. Shooting is set to begin in New York in September.
Nothing like bad taste to make you some bucks. The Rock -- aka the World Wrestling Federation guy from UPN’s "Smackdown!" -– is in talks to star in two films: one a good guy/bad guy flick, and the other, an untitled big-budget sci-fi flick, today's Daily Variety says.
But wait: There's more: Variety says the wrestler will get about $5 million per pic.
For your viewing pleasure, Mr. Rock (real name: Dwayne Johnson) is also hooked up for the sequel to 1999's action-horror hit "The Mummy."
STILL GOING STRONG: Today's Hollywood Reporter says Gene Hackman is negotiating to star in the drama-actioner "Behind Enemy Lines." Directed by commercial director John Moore, Hackman will play a veteran Marine who, along with a young Navy pilot, must fight to survive after they’re stranded in enemy territory.
GOING BLONDE : Resse Witherspoon is in final talks to star in "Legally Blonde," a comedy about a young blonde trying to shed the baggage of her hair color by going to law school.
GOING MAFIA: Another item courtesy of the Reporter: Mira Sorvino is in early negotiations to star in "Wisegirl," an indie film about three waitresses who work in a mob-owned restaurant.
GOING PRIMITIVE: Greg Kinnear is in negotiations to join Ashley Judd in the comedy "Animal Husbandry." He’ll play the boyfriend of a woman (Judd) who champions a certain dating theory based on the animal world.
GOING METEORIC: Josh Hartnett, last seen playing a high school lothario in "The Virgin Suicides" and will next be seen playing a WWII hero in "Pearl Harbor," is in talks to star in the comedy "40 Days and 40 Nights." Hartnett will play a heartbroken guy who vows to be celibate, and then falls in love.
GOING CABLE: Variety tells us that Spike Lee, Danny Glover and Pam Grier have committed to the Showtime cable flick "3 A.M." Lee is to co-executive produce the cable movie, while Glover and Grier are tapped to costar in a story about the lives of three cab drivers.