"Six Pack," a new Kenny Rogers vehicle in which he graduates from the little screen to the big screen with no discernible leap in acting ability, is a light brew, a near-movie that borrows heavily from "The Dukes of Hazzard," "The Bad News Bears" and each and every film that's ever been made about the southern stock car racing circuit.
Rogers, an immensely likable personality, plays Brewster Baker, an itinerant racer who's been off the beaten trail for a couple of years following a suspicious accident and is about to start on the comeback track when his car is stripped clean by unidentified thieves.
After seeing another car stripped, he gives chase to a suspicious looking gray van, which falls into the river and disgorges six rat-pack kids. Rogers saves "Little Harry," the cute one who can't swim, and strikes up an incredulous relationship that is immediately threatened by the local sheriff, who turns out to be the bad bossman. He throws Rogers in jail, the kids break him out and they all hit the road; this is called bail bonding.
From there "Six Pack" turns into a tasting party as Rogers and the kids go from course to course, each stop just long enough for a predictable plot twist or the introduction of stock characters: the honky-tonk waitress Rogers left behind, the mechanic-turned-racer who done him wrong, the kids getting picked up by truant officers, the final big race. The kids who give the film its title have an uncanny ability to do anything to a car, from stripping it in 60 seconds flat to fixing it in slightly more time. Brewster Baker knows a pit crew when he can't get rid of one, so they all head full throttle into a circuit where no one seems to think it's strange that no one in the crew is more than five feet tall.
It's hard to dislike Rogers, but it's equally hard to find anything inspiring in his flaccid performance. He looks like a young Gabby Hayes and acts like a recent graduate of the Smokey the Bear School of Acting. His emoting, honed in two harmless TV specials ("The Gambler" and "Coward of the County"), seems limited to inhaling and exhaling; some of the lingering shots of his face could just as well have been stills. He's hardly convincing as a race-car driver, less so as a reluctantly paternalistic figurehead. And Rogers takes to winning like most people take to losing.
The kids, aged 6 to 17, are all Hollywood-slick and professionally lovable, with a stunning variety of accents considering they're supposed to be in the same family. The filmmakers have also made a serious mistake in having Robby Still play Swifty as a foul-mouthed mechanic. One assumes this is what earned the film its PG rating, but it adds nothing to the plot and the 14-year-old Still is far less convincing than his younger counterparts in "The Bad News Bears." And Diane Lane as older sister Breezy/Heather comes across as nothing more than a compact version of Daisy Duke.
If Rogers moves through the film somewhat lethargically, "Six Pack's" bare-bones plot doesn't provide much inspiration. There are a few chases (the best involving the panel truck and Rogers' camper with race car attached), a few laps around various tracks, negligible love scenes (including the year's quickest transition, one whole second, from a G-rated kiss to a morning-after shave). The whole thing makes "The Dukes of Hazzard" look like "Masterpiece Theatre."