It was 'bout that time when ol' Judge Eric Profancik got to reviewin' that movie he'd been a-lookin' at...
Our reviews of The Dukes Of Hazzard: The Complete First Season (published June 1st, 2004), The Dukes Of Hazzard: The Complete Second Season (published March 23rd, 2005), The Dukes Of Hazzard: The Complete Seventh Season (published December 27th, 2006), The Dukes Of Hazzard: Television Favorites (published March 8th, 2006), The Dukes Of Hazzard: The Beginning (Unrated) (published March 13th, 2007), The Dukes Of Hazzard: Two-Movie Collection (published June 25th, 2008), and The Dukes Of Hazzard: Unrated (HD DVD) (published July 28th, 2006) are also available.
Cousins. Outlaws. Thrillbillies.
"Just the good ol' boys, never meanin' no harm." That's how the song goes, but that's not quite how things ever played out during the original television show. Nor is it how things unfold here in the latest "classic" television show to be transported to the big screen. Bo and Luke were always getting into trouble, breaking the law, getting into fistfights, and blowing up a few things along the way. Doesn't sound like they're quite the perfect pacifists, but who cares? The Dukes of Hazzard is a guilty pleasure to this day, filled with interesting characters, some fun driving, and Catherine Bach.
When I first saw the trailer, I realized that this movie was going to be as dumb as a rock, yet I was curious to see it. In fact, I had every intention of seeing it, but as has been my choice this year, I don't see many movies in the theater anymore. It's the same story: It costs too much for the quality of the experience.
But at home, is The Dukes of Hazzard worth it?
Facts of the Case
Boss Jefferson Davis Hogg (Burt Reynolds, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas) and his henchman Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane (M.C. Gainy, Con Air) are trumping up bogus charges against residents of Hazzard County. One of his victims is Uncle Jesse (Willie Nelson), whose farm is going to be taken away because Roscoe found a still in the barn. While Uncle Jesse actually does make moonshine, Roscoe planted that still because Boss Hogg wants a huge chunk of land in the county for strip mining. But when the Duke family, Beauregard (Seann William Scott, American Pie), Lucas (Johnny Knoxville, Jackass: The Movie), and Daisy (Jessica Simpson), is threatened, they all come together to fight against the tyranny of Boss Hogg.
I went perusing through my old stack of Entertainment Weekly magazines before I wrote this, because I remembered an article in which Knoxville and Scott were interviewed about The Dukes of Hazzard. Unfortunately, I believe that issue was one I gave to my mother to read while she was traveling, so I will have to paraphrase from memory:
Entertainment Weekly: You guys are getting some flack for the lack of
plot in the movie…
That perfectly summarizes what you get when you pop in this movie—like you had any doubt in the first place. The Dukes of Hazzard isn't Shakespeare, has no intention of becoming it, and is held together by the thinnest and flimsiest thread. It's there to showcase the real star of the movie: the General Lee. I'm not a car guy myself, but the General still looks beautiful, some two and a half decades later. Who would have thought a bright orange 1969 Dodge Charger with a Confederate flag on the roof would become a symbol? What symbol? I don't know, but it certainly stands for something related to rowdiness, recklessness, and furious driving.
With the car being the true star, does the movie work? At times, yes; at other times, no. We have to endure many minutes of pretend buildup, creating some tension to propel everyone to an inevitable car race as the climax of the film. In that interim, we have an abomination posing as the General: a car that is orange, is a Dodge Charger, and is driven by Bo Duke—but the doors open! Eventually, everything falls into place, Waylon Jennings sings his famous song, and the boys are causing havoc throughout the state of Georgia. Forget any semblance to reality—that doesn't exist in The Dukes of Hazzard. Don't worry about the lousy police work, the coincidences, or, most importantly, the physics that would cause the General to fall apart. Just sit back and watch the General tear up the pavement. While we have a few quality jumps in the film, most notably the one seen in the trailer where the General lands in the middle of traffic on an interstate, I don't think we had enough. I wanted to see the General do what the General does best: jump. Jump over creeks, convenient road obstacles, other cars, and so forth. The movie needed more. In place of lots of jumping, we are given lots and lots of drifting. I think the creators of this movie played too much "Burnout" on their game console, because the General is rarely driving straight. It seems to be stuck at a permanent 45 degree angle. Actually, it really looks cool, but it isn't a substitute for the jumping.
Everyone can picture the original stars of The Dukes of Hazzard, and I believe everyone was comparing them to their movie counterparts. How do they stack up?
Burt Reynolds as Boss Hogg: I like the choice. He isn't short, and he isn't fat, but he has the same gusto and gleam in his eye. Sadly, Boss Hogg is a poorly developed character who doesn't feel like the man from the show.
M.C. Gainy as Roscoe: I'm not fond of this choice, not so much because of the actor but because of the direction of the character. Roscoe is a blundering idiot in the show, but in the movie he's a nasty, mean man. I can see the need to contemporize the character, but this isn't the Roscoe we all know. He didn't spout any of his famous lines.
Willie Nelson as Uncle Jesse: Visually, this is an amazing choice. You see Willie and you see Uncle Jesse. On the acting front, Willie is not a good actor, and his role suffers because of it. It feels as if he's reciting lines more than acting.
Jessica Simpson as Daisy Duke: I've never paid much attention to Jessica, but in this role she is excellent. She's not an actress, but my goodness is she hot in this movie. She wears her Daisy Dukes better than Catherine Bach! And for her few lines, she actually appears to be having fun and gets the job done.
Johnny Knoxville as Lucas (Luke) Duke: I don't see it. For me, he shall always be a jackass.
Seann William Scott as Beauregard (Bo) Duke: Again, I don't see it. For me, he shall always be Stiffler.
Allow me to lump the two boys together and continue. It isn't fair for me to pigeonhole these two guys into their most notable roles, but sometimes you get stuck with something whether you like it or not. Regardless of that, they just aren't the right men for the part. They aren't country boys. They don't exude one iota of country charm or country anything. Instead, you have a scruffy looking nerfherder and a…jackass. Did Bo ever wear a Led Zeppelin shirt? Did Luke ever have a threesome? Was Bo ever that obsessed with the General? No. There just wasn't enough flannel for these guys to come across as good ol' boys.
Warner Brothers has released two versions of the movie—the theatrical PG-13 version and an unrated version. I had the opportunity to review the latter. As I haven't seen the original cut (nor is it available on the unrated disc), allow me to make a solid deduction about the differences. First, I heard a few of the saltier curse words come from the Duke boys that I doubt would have stayed in a PG-13 rated film. Second, and lastly, there are more boobs—of the female variety, not male leads—in this version. Neither addition really contributes much to the film. If they had been Jessica Simpson's boobs, then it would have been a stellar addition.
This disc itself is a solid release of respectable quality. The 2:35:1 anamorphic print exudes a nice dimensionality and realism with rich, accurate colors, crisp details and contrast, and no significant errors. Your ears will be caressed with a thumping Dolby Digital 5.1 mix—the bass kicks loud and hard, the surrounds will make you feel like you're in the middle of the action, and, oh, dialogue is clear too.
The downside to the disc is its weak assortment of bonus features. It looks like a bunch to choose from, but each is superficial, not especially informative, and over in the blink of an eye:
• "Daisy Dukes: The Short Short Shorts" (4.5 minutes): A dry-humored, tongue-in-cheek look at the creation of the Daisy Dukes for this movie. It sadly lacks any comparison to the original Daisy Duke.
• "The General Lee Lives" (5 minutes): A brief discussion of the twenty-six cars used in the film and the camera rigs created to film them.
• "How to Launch a Muscle Car 175 Feet in 4 Seconds" (4.5 minutes): A thin review of what it took to make the General land in its most famous jump—the aforementioned interstate launch.
• "The Hazards of Duke" (14.5 minutes): The meatiest segment is also the one most suffering from ADD, as it jumps from subject to subject, from person to person. Hey, we're based on a 1970s television show. Look at the car drift. See Willie Nelson, he can't throw a punch…
• "These Boots Are Made for Walking" Music Video: I didn't watch this one, as I prefer Nancy Sinatra's version, but I am sad to see it's not presented in DD 5.1.
• Additional Scenes: Two extra scenes with a total run time of 5.5 minutes. The original ending is interesting.
• Unrated Additional Scenes: This is the unrated DVD, so here are four more minutes of additional scenes, mostly centered around the boys' time in the sorority house. Mmmm, boobs.
• Bloopers (5 minutes): An average assortment of silliness.
• Unrated Bloopers (5.5 minutes): A slightly above average assortment of silliness laced with homosexual antics and f-bombs.
Rounding it all out is the theatrical trailer, and two Easter Eggs.
The ball was clearly dropped here, because there's no nice featurette on the General Lee and the stunts involved with the car. Show us more of how you did it, the hurdles you faced, and the failures along the way. You give us a few snippets here and there, but you should have given more.
Perhaps you could have talked about why you changed the ending?
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I knew that The Dukes of Hazzard was going to be a dumb movie, but even with lowered expectations I found myself not enjoying the movie as much as I had hoped. I wanted a mindless, simple, silly film with a nice dash of the original's "country charm," but instead we have two overstimulated guys pretending to be from the South. The Dukes of Hazzard has moments where you're sucked in and having fun, but it also has too many spots where things drag out and fall flat. As mindless entertainment, it misses its mark and is not wholly satisfying. I'm definitely not going to give this one a buy recommendation; however, I'll give a cautious rental recommendation. A little action, a little adventure, a little racing, a little explosion, a little explanation about the Confederate flag on the roof, and some little Daisy Dukes aren't the worst way to spend an evening.
The court hereby finds The Dukes of Hazzard guilty of running moonshine. They are sentenced to Meals on Wheels for thirty days.
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