People Staff
April 12, 2004 12:00 PM

ACTION

The Rock, Neal McDonough, Johnny Knoxville, Ashley Scott

Disappointingly, the bulked-up hero of this remake bears the plain vanilla name Chris Vaughn rather than the original’s more flavorful Buford Pusser. But if s reassuring to report that other major elements of the 1973 beat-’em-up drama, also called Walking Tall, have been retained. A Special Forces veteran (The Rock, who prior to his pro wrestling days was known as Dwayne Johnson) returns to his hometown in Washington (another change: the ’73 film was set in Tennessee) to find it has become a dope-selling haven. He gets himself elected sheriff and, walking tall and literally carrying a big stick, cleans up the town.

This is all diverting enough, and The Rock is steadily improving as an actor. While he is perhaps still not ready to take on the challenge of playing King Lear, he has an easy way with a joke and certainly throws a convincing punch. And Tall gets points for making Vaughn’s folks an interracial couple (The Rock himself is African-American and Samoan) but never having anyone comment about it. (PG-13)

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