Warner Bros. // 2006 // 95 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 13th, 2007
The rise of the cutoffs.
The prequel no one was expecting -- or asking for -- accelerates onto DVD, and features everything that has made The Dukes of Hazzard a beloved icon of American pop culture: reckless driving, anti-establishment rebellion of the proletariat, and exposed breasts.
The story posits the genesis of Bo and Luke Duke, and the history that led to their shenanigans in Hazzard County. Teenaged Bo (Jonathan Bennett. Bachelor Party Vegas) and Luke (Randy Wayne, ABC's Sons & Daughters) are delinquents, running afoul of the law and sent to live with their Uncle Jesse (Willie Nelson) at his ranch. There, the cousins are supposed to learn responsibility and civic duty, but, dang it, if their wild nature just can't be reigned in!
Meanwhile, Boss Hogg (Christopher McDonald, American Pie Presents The Naked Mile) is working on a scheme to corner the moonshine market, while also making a Hazzard a dry county, much to the consternation of respectable moonshiner Uncle Jesse. So Jesse, always the adult role model, enlists the help of Bo, Luke, and Daisy (April Scott, Model #14 on Deal or No Deal) to run his moonshine all across the county. Things to watch for: the birth of the General Lee, the origins of Daisy's minimalist fashion sense, and the awkward, overactive libido of the Duke boys.
Is The Dukes of Hazzard franchise so virile that it warrants a prequel? I guess someone thinks there's life to squeeze out of the complex mythology that is two men in tight jeans driving really fast on dirt roads. What looks like a mechanical disgorging of straight-to-DVD brand recognition actually holds two surprises for the viewer: 1) there are some truly funny moments in this movie and 2) "unrated" means "unrated."
The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning is more American Pie than the Dukes TV series. Beyond driving in fast cars, evading Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, and firing the occasional explosive-tipped arrow at an outhouse, you have to admit there wasn't much meat to the series. So the filmmakers for the prequel opted to embrace the aura brought to the franchise by Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville in the big-screen predecessor and pump it full of more raunchiness. Expect lots of sexual innuendo, some gross-out gags, and a surprising amount of nudity (the Duke boys test-drive a go-cart in a high school and zip through the girl's locker room, which happened to be populated by half-naked college juniors that day apparently, and the flood of nipples and underwear is copious). A lot of the debauchery is for shock value, but behind the easy gags of screaming women in bras and double entendres there are some fully-functioning jokes.
The constant lines about Luke wanting to lose his virginity grew stale, but gags with Coltrane (Harland Williams, Employee of the Month), proto-Cooter and, yeah, even Uncle Jesse managed to hit their targets, and did much to lend the film some comedic credibility. Not all the actors fared as well, though. McDonald phones in his typical jackass role, and while April Scott's Daisy looks cute enough (ultra-skinny, but still cute) her entire gimmick is the plain-looking-glasses-wearing-ugly-duckling transformation to a raging hottie that has been thoroughly milked throughout the teen movie timeline. Jennifer Hill (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle) and (shudder) Trishelle Cannatella (The Real World: Las Vegas) play smoldering love interests for the Duke boys, but mainly just smile goofily and flaunt their bosoms.
As for the bread and butter of the Dukes gameplan -- the car chases -- it's a let-down. You'll get one extended run through Hazzard in the culminating chase, with a few cop cars flipping over and Coltrane muttering incoherently, but the leaps, skids, and daredevilry are minimized. In fact, the General Lee makes only one major jump, and that's blemished by some obvious blue screen work.
When the dust clears, I'll give this much to The Dukes of Hazzard: The Begninng: it's sporadically funny and not nearly as un-amusing and painful as I was expecting. Some gag work and I was surprised at how sophomoric the humor was. The nudity seemed out of place, though I highly doubt Warner Brothers will receive much critical email from its target demographic about that.
Good picture (1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen) and sound (5.1 surround) and the extras clock in with a hefty making-of feature (broken up into chapters) and a music video.
Well, the lyrics claim the Duke boys have "been in trouble with the law since the day they was born," so is there another prequel planned? Perhaps The Dukes of Hazzard: The Teething Years? Anyway, this movie is far from great, but will likely entertain you if you find American Pie and films of that nature even moderately amusing.
I'm in a generous mood today. We'll give you Duke boys a pass...but don't press your luck.
Review content copyright © 2007 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Music Video
* Official Site