In what could have been a fun and family-friendly remake of the popular television show, director Jay Chandrasekhar (of the Broken Lizard comedy group) chose instead to deliver an offensive cross between American Pie and Jackass: The Movie. Essentially, The Dukes of Hazzard is a sexed-up and profane distortion of the American cult classic. You'd do well to get in your own General Lee and drive far away from this Hazzard (sorry—such puns are obligatory in reviews like this).
Bo Duke (Seann William Scott) and Luke Duke (Johnny Knoxville) are just a couple of laid-back cousins from Hazzard County, somewhere near Atlanta, Georgia. Bo worships General Lee, his 1969 Dodge Charger R/T. Luke worships … sex. That's obvious from the first scene in which a half-dressed Luke is chased by his lover's shotgun-wielding brother. Thinking that the filmmakers had clearly established Luke's womanizing tendencies, I hoped that the film would then focus less on sex and more on the actual story. But, silly me, it quickly became evident that the severe lack of story prevented the filmmakers from doing anything but. So, I proceeded to endure 106 minutes of shoddy car chase footage interspersed with Luke's various and sundry attempts to woo women.
The rest of the film's plot follows that of the original TV series. Boss Hogg makes evil plans. Duke boys foil plans. Boss Hogg gets mad. Duke boys save the day. In this particular "episode," Boss Hogg wants to strip-mine Hazzard County and plans to distract the potential objectors (a.k.a. townspeople) by bringing a well-known NASCAR driver into town to compete in the much-heralded car rally. It takes them a while, but Bo and Luke, with the help of Harvard-material-under-this-ditzy-exterior Daisy Duke (played by singer-turned-actress Jessica Simpson) and moonshine-making Uncle Jessie (still-a-singer Willie Nelson), finally get wind of Boss Hogg's plans and prepare to save their beloved town.
Dukes contains several red flags—more than I could possibly mention in this review, so here's an annotated list of the "Top Five Reasons Why This Movie Stinks."
1. It's never a good sign when a movie's soundtrack is its best feature. Still, the soundtrack does its job and distracts viewers from the lamer scenes in the movie. After all, doesn't Bo Duke look so cool driving the General Lee while rocking out to Molly Hatchet and The Charlie Daniels Band? You can be sure that there'll be a run on this soundtrack, especially since interest piqued earlier this summer with Jessica Simpson's remake of "These Boots Were Made for Walkin.'"
2. For a movie that's all about cars, or rather one car (the General Lee), the chase scenes and stunt scenes just aren't that good. Yeah, the film included the famous airborne shot, but aside from that 5-second sequence, the other car scenes can't hold a candle to some famous chases in cinema history: Duel, The Blues Brothers, and The Bourne Supremacy to name a few.
3. Toward the middle of the movie, Bo and Luke steal some core samples from Boss Hogg and decide that the best way to determine what the samples consist of is to head to a science lab at a Georgia university. The entire sequence is an ode to college life and serves only to show a sorority in which all of the sisters are half-naked and most are smoking pot. Aside from being completely offensive, the scenes insult the intelligence of the viewers, as though we won't catch on that the side jaunt to the college is completely unnecessary to the small shred of plot imbedded in the movie. The filmmakers do themselves a great disservice by wasting twenty minutes of movie time that could have otherwise been used to develop characters, explore themes, or pay better homage to the original TV series.
4. Daisy Duke uses her body to get both herself and her cousins out of trouble. She also uses her body to get information from Enos, the local deputy. I don't know what's more frustrating: the fact that she uses her sexual prowess to manipulate men or the fact that she doesn't use her intellectual prowess, which would get her the same results. The message is clear. Girls, if you want something, just throw on a bikini and march into your local police station. The deputies will tell you anything you want to know.
5. Perhaps the worst part of the film is each character's incredible sense of recklessness and complete disregard for personal safety. I understand that the film falls under the category of slapstick comedy. But, for a family that seems so tight-knit, the Dukes can be downright mean to one another. At one point in the movie, Bo pulls a giant vault (attached to a long metal chain) behind a tow-truck. He finally realizes that Luke is somehow attached to the very safe, holding on for dear life. Bo just looks out the rear-view mirror and says, "Sorry, man. You'd do the same thing to me" and keeps driving. Sure, the audience is supposed to exercise the whole "suspension of disbelief" idea, but there comes a point when the stunts are too "bigger and better" for their own good.
Please don't bother with this movie. In fact, take the advice of the original Cooter (Ben Jones) and "Don't Go Unless They Clean It Up!" If you're just itching for more Dukes, stick to the original series on DVD.Discussion starters
- Daisy Duke often uses her body to get what she needs. How do you feel about that? Is using sexual attraction as power wrong if no sex actually takes place?
- Luke Duke is a womanizer in the truest sense of the word. Why does he pursue so many different women? What does that say about Luke as a person?
- Bo Duke is obsessed with his car, the General Lee. What kinds of "obsessions" do you have? Do you believe that obsessions are OK? At what point do our interests get out of control?
- Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds) is willing to sacrifice a town and its people for his personal gain. How does that make you feel about his character? What makes a person so uncaring? Can that type of person ever change?
The Family CornerFor parents to consider
Though it received a PG-13 rating, The Dukes of Hazzard should be rated R. From the opening scene all the way to the outtakes during the credits, the film is loaded with profanity and sexual innuendos. The movie makes several allusions to Luke Duke's infidelity. Many of the characters use profanity and take the Lord's name in vain. Daisy Duke wears very revealing clothing (even a bikini at one point). Several characters use drugs and drink moonshine. In the outtakes, Knoxville pulls pranks very similar to those seen in his Jackass show (the pranks include genitalia). Take the rating seriously. Younger children should not see this film.
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Copyright © 2005 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.compiled by Peter T. Chattaway
from Film Forum, 08/11/05
Poor Burt Reynolds. Once one of America's biggest movie stars, lately he has had to play second banana to younger, less talented actors in movies that basically rip off his own biggest hits. Earlier this summer, he had to watch Adam Sandler take over his role as a football star who gets sent to prison in The Longest Yard. And now he has to play bad guy Boss Hogg in The Dukes of Hazzard, a big-screen remake of a 1980s TV show that, in its own way, tapped into the anti-authoritarian, booze-smuggling, car-chasing, CB-radio vibe of the Smokey and the Bandit movies that Reynolds starred in way back when.
The big-screen Dukes of Hazzard is directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, who sent up highway cops and other authority figures a few years ago in State Troopers, a film he made with the comedy troupe Broken Lizard. He brings the same drugs-and-sex frat-boy mentality to Hazzard—going in an even dumber and more profane direction than other recent TV-show spin-offs like Bewitched and The Brady Bunch Movie—and most Christian critics are not amused.
Christian Hamaker (Crosswalk) says this "uncomfortably crude" film is "aimed straight at today's teenage audience, with enough eye-candy and car chases to satisfy undiscriminating boys and girls, but enough profanity and sexual suggestiveness to make a grown man blush … The disposable plot clearly is secondary to the filmmakers' main concern: car chases, stunt scenes and the frivolous squabbles between Bo and Luke. Any fun to be had is in the telling of the story, but it's here that the screenwriters fail the audience."
Steven Isaac (Plugged In) pays special attention to the sexual objectification of former pastor's daughter Jessica Simpson, and he also notes a "spectacularly irresponsible" scene in which Uncle Jesse (Willie Nelson) turns bottles of his moonshine into Molotov cocktails and throws them at the police cars chasing him. Isaac concludes that the problem with this film is its attitude: "Silliness has been replaced by meanness. Goofiness with dull stupidity. Laugh lines with sexual sludge. Exclamations are now laced with vulgarity. And 'trying to do the right thing but doing it the wrong way' has given in to 'just do whatever you please at whatever cost.' Never before has that signature, beat-up orange hotrod shown so many dents … Not even Boss Hogg would want to punish the Duke boys as much as this movie does."
Mainstream critics seem to think Dukes will be Hazzard-ous to most moviegoers' health.