Cars and the damage a man, with them, can do to himself, his women, and his good name lie at the center of this deceptively funny—okay, hilarious—coming-of-legal-incarceration-ager.
It’s the wretched ’70s in the American South. Luke Fulmer is so estranged from his father, Lyndell, that the first time he meets the man, he mistakes him for a prowler and bops him with a baseball bat. No harm done: daddy just wants to take his ten-year-old son on a three a.m. joy ride and pass on the family motto: “A real man eats pussy and drives a stick shift.” Luke’s legal driving days last all of two weeks; within days of taking his driver’s test, a botched attempt to steal back the family TV from the ex-boyfriend of his mother, Claudia, lands him in juvie, where a meanie judge makes confetti of his license. Instead of boot camp, the 16-year-old is sent to spend the summer with his brother, Nick, whose “landscaping” job is a cover for a thriving drug operation, while Claudia moves to Florida to get soused on blender drinks with Sport Coat Charlie (a nice guy, who, alas, has a penchant for sofa-patterned haberdashery). Things go elegantly and effortlessly to hell. Luke picks up a bail bondsmen sidekick named Cash, then a convict’s dog (trained in crotch attacks) named Brute, and a girlfriend, Rachel, who steals Juicy Fruit gum by the case. Many wonderful scenes of incompetent mayhem ensue, including a brawl in the Waffle House parking lot with Jack Nicklaus, a golf club, and a broken TV antenna; and a shoot-out in a drug dealer’s condo with three drunk pro wrestlers, a Magnum, and a $15 Daisy BB gun.
A giddy homage to testosterone-induced blindness: Hudgens’s first is so much fun that it’s easy to forget how difficult it is to portray decent people acting like morons with an artfulness sufficient to transform it into boneheaded genius.