The Dukes of Hazzard

  The Dukes of Hazzard
"I never saw 'The Longest Yard' either.
You gonna slap me now?"

© 2005, Warner Bros.
All Rights Reserved

Dukes of Hazzard Spotlight Page
Hustling moonshine for their Uncle Jessie (Willie Nelson), Bo (Seann William Scott) and Luke (Johnny Knoxville) Duke tear up the Hazzard Country landscape in their orange daredevil car, the General Lee. Looking to thwart their adventures are Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane (M.C. Gainey) and Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds), who wants the Hazzard landscape for himself to strip-mine for coal. Interested in stirring up trouble, along with their cousin Daisy (Jessica Simpson), the Dukes try to prevent Hogg from taking over the town the only way they know how: through unparalleled chaos.

There was no need to bring "The Dukes of Hazzard" (IMDb listing) to the big screen. This remake truly represents the most evil of Hollywood ideals, and it tarnishes a south-of-the-border television treat that is still standing more than 25 years after its heyday.

Good, I got that out of the way. Now on to the film.

"Dukes of Hazzard" is one of the most unlikely properties for a movie adaptation, and that's saying something in the summer of "The Honeymooners." With paper-thin plots, even-tempered charms, and a goofy comedy agenda, "Dukes" was a minor television classic that barely broke a sweat. The new, silver screen "Dukes" is a more aggressive, assertive enterprise, taking great pleasure in ignoring why the original creation is still thought highly of today.

Granted, the material isn't brain surgery; director Jay Chandrasekhar (a member and helmer of the Broken Lizard comedies, "Super Troopers" and "Club Dread"), is in such a hurry to put his own stamp on the production, that right away he ditches light comedy for crotch hits, and jazzes up the screenplay with odd Air Supply and "Usual Suspects" jokes. Gone are the essential family dynamics of the Dukes (Willie Nelson and Jessica Simpson merely cameo here), and gone is the good-natured push-and-pull of Bo and Luke. Now they act like improv class partners, thrown together without much thought for their chemistry. Chandrasekhar, looking to please his studio bosses and teenagers, simply ramps up the car chases, the cleavage, and the confusing soundtrack (southern rock, Jessica Simpson, and AC/DC?) to keep the energy in the red at all times. And that's a good thing, for when "Dukes" stops to crack wise, there's nothing worse.

Unfortunately, Chandrasekhar mashes up this theme park stunt show with Broken Lizard cast cameos and deflated gags -- one directly lifted from the group's debut, "Super Troopers." What this has to do with "Hazzard" is a mystery, and it further demonstrates the willingness of the production to defecate on the source material. The rest of the jokes are of the bar-room-brawl/blackface variety, that, if you can't see them coming a mile away, you'll wish you couldn't see them at all. With Scott doing his "American Pie" Stifler character yet again, and a questionably-accented Knoxville oddly cast as the chick-magnet Duke, the film doesn't really have a grasp of the funny or the absurd. Yet, when all else fails, Chandrasekhar can just have someone get wailed in the groin again, right?

Fortunately, the production pulls out all the stops for the finale, cashing in their car crash chips for some diverting highway stunts. This is more what the old "Dukes" was all about, though the action here is considerably heightened to satisfy the hunger pains of summer audiences. A lot of tires are squealed, a lot of cop cars are junked, and the General Lee flies high again. It seems so simple in hindsight, yet, to Chandrasekhar, it's an equation he has no idea how to solve.

Filmfodder Grade: D

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