The Dukes of Hazzard Review
By Shawn McKenzie 08/05/2005
When I was a kid, my brother and I would anxiously await the latest episode of the 1979-1985 CBS show “The Dukes of Hazzard” every Friday night while we ate macaroni and cheese with hot dogs. We were left with a babysitter that night, since Friday night was the night that my mom and dad went out for the evening. The show was goofy, but fun. Every plotline was almost exactly the same: Boss Hogg and Sheriff Roscoe would frame the Duke boys for one thing or another, they would get “in a heap a trouble,” and then the Duke boys would save the day by driving the General Lee over something. It wasn’t until I saw the reruns on “The New TNN” (renamed Spike TV) and later on CMT that I realized how truly bad the show was, but in an amusing way. You could actually do a drinking game while watching it (in fact, I think that there are several of them on the net right now.) The movie version almost gets the TV show right, but with one too many liberties taken, it’s almost unforgivable.
Cousins Boregard “Bo” Duke (Seann William Scott) and Lukas “Luke” Duke (Johnny Knoxville) are just a couple of good ole’ boys from Hazzard County who never meant no harm. It beats all you never saw, they’ve been in trouble with the law since the day they was born…mainly for running moonshine made by their Uncle Jesse (Willie Nelson.) They constantly need the help of their cousin Daisy (Jessica Simpson), who gets them out of trouble with the law by flirting with Deputy Enos Strate (Michael Weston) and any other male who might be able to assist her. As the unseen Balladeer (Junior Brown) narrates, the movie opens with the cousins running their latest shipment of moonshine to the Pullman farm, where Luke has a fling with Mr. Pullman’s (Barry Corbin) daughter Laurie (Alice Greczyn.) When Mr. Pullman realizes what Luke is doing to his daughter, the cousins book it out of there in the General Lee, their 1969 orange Dodge Charger, with Mr. Pullman and Laurie’s brother Jimmy (Steve Lemme) chasing after them. They manage to evade the Pullmans, but they become stuck in between two tractors. The cousins walk back to town, and they run into an old friend of theirs named Billy Prickett (James Roday) at the Boar’s Nest, where Daisy works. Billy is now a big star on the NASCAR circuit, and he and his crew chief Dil Driscoll (Michael Roof) are there for the 70th Annual Hazzard Road Rally. He is a little high-and-mighty now, so they get into a bar brawl. Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane (M.C. Gainey) stops all of that noise by arresting the Duke boys. Roscoe works for his brother-in-law, Jefferson Davis “Boss” Hogg (Burt Reynolds), the corrupt county commissioner. He owns almost everything in town, and he wants to own Uncle Jesse’s farm. Using some trumped-up charge in order repossess the farm, Hogg does just that, and Bo and Luke have to a find a way to save it. After they get out of jail, they head to local mechanic Cooter Davenport’s (David Koechner) garage to see the progress being made on restoring the General Lee. He loans them his tow truck, which he doesn’t need that often (he has used the truck nine times in the last three years…and eight of them were used on the Duke boys’ car.) They break into Hogg’s office and steal his safe, which they believe has all of Hogg’s nefarious plans in it. They bring the safe to Sheev’s Bait & Tackel Shop (that is how it is spelled) to have local nut case Derek “Sheev” Sheevington (Kevin Heffernan) open the safe. After attempting to blow the door open with explosives, Luke finishes the job with his flaming bow-and-arrow. Inside the safe, they find samples of a substance in containers. When they return the tow truck back, they discover that Cooter has made a few modifications to the General Lee. He has installed a hemi in the engine, has welded the doors shut for stability, has installed a car horn that plays “Dixie,” and has painted the Confederate flag on the roof (they don’t notice this last addition until later.) They drive the General Lee to Atlanta, where they meet up with Hazzard student Katie Lee Johnson (Nikki Griffin), a girl that Bo had a crush on but Luke had a past with, and her roommate/friend Annette (Jacqui Maxwell) at an Atlanta university. Katie has the Duke boys pretend to be visiting scientists so that they could have a lab tech named Ross Royce (Charlie Finn) find out what the substance is. He finds out that it is a substance used in strip mining, which means that Boss needs to repossess the Duke farm, along with a couple of neighboring farms, so that he can continue on with his venture. Now that Hogg has gotten wind of the Duke boys’ knowledge of his plans, he, along with Roscoe and his cousin, Deputy Cletus Hogg (Jack Polick), stop at nothing to thwart the cousins’ plans to save the farm. The Duke family plans include assistance from Pauline (Lynda Carter), friend of the family who has a thing for Uncle Jesse. They plan to race against Prickett in the Road Rally in order to win the prize money and stop the repossession. They need to get the prize money to Judge Locke Randolph (Therial “Houseman” deClouet) by noon or they will lose the farm. They use every asset they have, including Daisy wearing a pink bikini to get information from Enos and talking to Governor Jim Applewhite (Joe Don Baker) and reporter Rick Shakely (Paul Soter) about their situation. Hopefully, these things will help to defeat the greedy Boss Hogg.
Since I am a long Dukes fan, I will address the liberties taken. First and most importantly, Reynolds didn’t look anything like Hogg. Hogg was fat, short, and bald (Hogg was originally played by Sorrell Booke.) Couldn’t director Jay Chandrasekhar find another actor with that description other than Reynolds? If you took away his Brooklyn accent and gave him a Southern accent, Danny DeVito would have been perfect. He has made a career out of playing comedic bad guys, so I guess he must have been otherwise busy (or couldn’t see himself being in it.) Secondly…who the heck is Pauline? My only guess is that her character must have been the equivalent of Miz Emma Tisdale, originally played by Nedra Volz. Everything else they got right…somewhat.
I realize that this movie takes place in 2005, so I expected there to be a few more mature PG-13-rated updates. The main thing is the addition of drug use. When Bo and Duke visit Katie’s sorority, they partake in lots of marijuana use. Also, in the end of the movie, Uncle Jesse is smoking meats in a smokehouse, but knowing Nelson’s affinity for the doobie, I’m sure that’s not all he was smoking.
The original Cooter, former Georgia Congressman Ben Jones, has publicly stated that the movie is more lewd than the TV show, which he considers family friendly. Aside from the drug use, I would have to disagree with him. This was the same show that made those ultra short “Daisy Dukes” famous. In addition, it did have its share of non-bloody violence and dangerous car stunts (it was long before they had to warn stupid kids “not to try this at home.”) I may have been a kid when I watched it, but it was never “family friendly.”
I just didn’t find it all that funny either though. There were funny parts, like the Duke boys pretending to be Japanese scientists (they converted) and their attempt to open the safe at Sheev’s place, but overall, I didn’t find myself rolling on the floor. Chandrasekhar, along with Heffernan, are members of the comedy troupe Broken Lizard (makers of 2001’s Super Troopers, which I didn’t like, and 2004’s Club Dread, which I didn’t see), so that might explain the so-so humor of the movie. John O’Brien (2003’s Cradle 2 the Grave, 2004’s Starsky & Hutch) wrote the movie’s screenplay and the TV show itself is based off a 1975 movie called Moonrunners. The TV show was never classified as a comedy though. It was an action show with comedic elements to it (usually supplied by the antics of Hogg and Roscoe.) The movie was always supposed to be a comedy with lots of cool car stunts. Well…it delivered on the car stunts.
The number one question I’m asked about the movie is: how is Simpson’s acting abilities? While she won’t be seeing Oscar gold anytime soon, I didn’t think that she was that bad. People seem to forget that she was a decent actress in a recurring role on FOX’s “That ‘70s Show” long before she hit it big with her hit MTV reality show “Newlyweds.” I was actually more concerned with the acting talents of Nelson and Knoxville. Nelson has mostly done cameo roles (his most significant roles have been 1980’s Honeysuckle Rose and 1986’s Red-Headed Stranger), but he did okay. As for Knoxville…I haven’t seen him lead a movie yet, other than the thoroughly awful Jackass: The Movie, but he at least managed to not annoy me, and he had some decent chemistry with Scott.
With The Dukes of Hazzard being the only new movie being released this weekend in wide release, I guess you could do better. That’s just a little bit more than the law will allow though.
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