The Dukes of Hazzard (2005) / Comedy-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual content, crude humor, drug references, language and some violence
Running Time: 106 min.
Cast: Johnny Knoxville, Seann William Scott, Jessica Simpson, Burt Reynolds, M.C. Gainey, David Koechner, Kevin Hefferman, Willie Nelson, Lynda Carter, Michael Weston, Joe Don Baker, Rip Taylor (cameo)
Director: Jay Chandrasekhar
Screenplay: John O'Brien
Review published August 10, 2005
Yes, I am one of the unfortunate souls that actually "grew up" watching the adventures of Bo and Luke Duke every week on "The Dukes of Hazzard", but even to this day, I'm not nostalgic about them one bit. It comes with great surprise to find out that there are folks at Warner Bros. that apparently think the show holds fond memories for millions, as a movie adaptation was green-lighted into a major motion picture summer release in 2005. It's been a long time since I watched the Dukes tear across my television set, so I was a bit apprehensive that I would no longer understand a few of the in-jokes or recognize some of the characters, but after seeing it, I realize I needn't have worried. By all appearances, the makers of this film didn't bother trying to recreate the television show in anything but minimal necessities, and they filled up the rest of the film with 21st century noise pollution, sexual innuendo, and all the redneck jokes you can shake a polecat at. Like Scooby-Doo before it, one wonders whether they love the "Dukes" show or despise it, as it seems to hold absolutely no respect for the television series from which it draws inspiration.
Bo (Scott, The Rundown) and Luke Duke (Knoxville, Lords of Dogtown) are cousins that run moonshine for their Uncle Jesse (Nelson, The Big Bounce), and these good ole boys spend a great deal of their off time just having fun in their souped-up car carousing the women and knocking back a few brews at the local watering holes. They find their lives a bit more complicated when they discover some land development happening almost literally in their own backyard, and they soon discover that Hazzard Country is about to become fodder for an ugly coal mine to be run by the sleazy local politician, Boss Hogg (Reynolds, The Longest Yard).
Blame the decision to hand the reigns to lowbrow director Jay Chandrasekhar (Club Dread, Super Troopers) for the reason The Dukes of Hazzard becomes a miserable failure, as there is no such thing as subtlety in his repertoire. He plays everything as loud and obnoxious as possible, thinking that it is how far you push the envelope that makes for a funny joke, and not timing or witty turn-of-phrase. While the good ole boys of the TV show were country through and through, Chandrasekhar envisions classic rock and heavy metal anthems blaring as the Dukes perform high-flying jumps and drift nonstop whenever they are in a hurry to get anywhere. Even a totally innocuous character like Daisy Duke has turned from girl next door in short-shorts, to a man-eating vamp that uses the power of seduction to completely distract or gain information from any man she comes in contact with. It's also an excuse to show Jessica Simpson wearing as little as possible, and sad to say it, that's about the best thing The Dukes of Hazzard has to offer in the entertainment department.
Perhaps the most flagrant foul of all is that The Dukes of Hazzard -- despite its ampred soundtrack, supercharged vehicular mayhem, and scantily clad women -- is abysmally boring. Jokes fizzle time and time again, the plot is a stinker, the dialogue is insulting to anyone with a smidgeon of intelligence, and the chase scenes go on interminably. The entire film is overblown to the maximum proportion allowable. The only problem with going for the "thrill ride" is that this ride doesn't bother waiting for you to come aboard before it spins wildly out of control. Sure, the makers of the film seem to be having a good time ripping up an old TV show to shreds, but do they bother trying to clue us in on what's so funny? I'd say not, if you measured the film by how many big laughs there are (or I should say, "aren't?").
The Dukes of Hazzard isn't really for big fans of the show, as they will probably be disappointed at how much this film lacks any connection in a vital way to the spirit of the time it was made in. This leaves it strictly as fodder for those too young to have ever seen an episode of the show, and for those, this is still paltry entertainment that aims low and still rarely hits its mark. Just because these good ole boys never mean any harm doesn't mean they don't harm, because they do so time and again to audiences throughout the course of this movie.
Oh well -- it's not like anyone realistically expected a good movie here, or even a faithful adaptation of the old television show. Reminiscing, I do remember one TV episode where Uncle Jesse said the line, "That's about as funny as a one-legged man in a butt kicking contest!" If only The Dukes of Hazzard were as funny...
©2005 Vince Leo