The Dukes of Hazzard Review
Even though I was more of a Starsky and Hutch kind of guy, I was probably more likely to be watching Play School or Rainbow when The Dukes of Hazzard was thrilling TV audiences a quarter of a century ago. As a result, the sickly glow of nostalgia has not tainted my notions of what this cinematic updating should be delivering. But those of you with fond memories of the show may want to look away now, because mercy me this is bad.
Cousins Bo and Luke Duke (Scott and Knoxville) are a couple of Georgia moonshiners, always in trouble with the corrupt sheriff, Rosco P. Coltrane (Gainey) and always needing the help of their other cousin Daisy (Simpson) to get them out of sticky situations. For their big screen debut, the insulting-to-Scooby-Doo story concerns Boss Hogg (Reynolds) trying to take control of the land in Hazzard County. This prompts the Duke boys to investigate what he’s up to and what it has to do with the big car race that’s taking place. With the help of Daisy and various other miscreants, they discover that he’s intending to strip mine the area while using the race as a diversion so that no one in town is able to object. Naturally, it’s up to the Dukes to save the day.
I must confess to having a perverse soft spot for Chandrasekhar and the Broken Lizard team’s previous effort, Club Dread, mainly because it’s one of the few places outside of The Simpsons where you’ll find jokes about Jimmy Buffett. Not being a Broken Lizard production though, and undoubtedly hampered by the constraints of having to deliver a film for teenage boys, there is still no excuse for the plotless and shambolic Dukes of Hazzard. The key appeal should be the Dukes tearing around in the General Lee, but the driving scenes are surprisingly thin on the ground. When they do come along they’re chaotic and unfocused, and more likely to involve generic chases on city streets than the high flying stunts we’d maybe have a right to expect in this technologically advanced age.
The rest of the time is spent pursuing juvenile attempts at humour which invariably fall flat. In between there’s an effort to reproduce the kind of high energy recklessness that characterised Burt Reynolds’ peak output, with wisecracking and barroom brawls and, while it’s nice just to see Reynolds in anything these days, he doesn’t look comfortable. Much of the pre-release focus has been on Simpson and her charms, which are ample, but she’s really not much of an actress, while Willie Nelson as Uncle Jesse serves no purpose whatsoever other than to tell corny jokes. Scott and Knoxville are appealing and charismatic leads, but they’re left floundering with material that’s at best sub-par and at worst downright embarrassing. There’s exactly one witty and pertinent line in the whole misbegotten endeavour when, on being branded hillbillies, the boys respond with “We prefer Appalachian Americans.” Other than that, forget about it.
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