film review – THE DUKES OF HAZZARD

news: film review – THE DUKES OF HAZZARD

Hazardous to audiences everywhere

ANOTHER WEEK, another TV remake that can’t decide whether to mock its cheesy source material or embrace it, and winds up uncomfortably in between. Based on the cheesy 80s TV series about a close-knit clan of hillbilly moon-shiners, Jay Chandrasekhar’s take on The Dukes of Hazzard seems to take pride in being as loud, obnoxious and moronic as humanly possible.

The cousins Duke: Bo (Scott) and Luke (Knoxville), live in the backwoods of Georgia, spending their days doing all the things you might expect hillbillies to do. You know, running speed traps, getting in bar fights and blowing up dogs’ mess with dynamite arrows. They also run illicit moonshine for their Uncle Jessie (Nelson) before retiring to the local watering hole where their cousin, Daisy Duke (Simpson), tends bar. However, things will change if the evil Boss Hogg (Reynolds) has his way and turns Hazzard into a coal mine. Can the boys save the day, their home, Jessie’s booze, and beat all-comers in the county’s annual road rally? Here’s a better question, which Hollywood buffoon let this brain-dead, cash-in on a TV show, which most of us can hardly remember anyway, movie be made? The film runs out of ideas faster than the boy’s car consumes gas, degenerating into a succession of car chases, bar brawls and multi-vehicle pile-ups.

The Dukes of Hazzard TV show transposed the car chases, buxom beauties and CB radio chatter of the movies to the small screen. The plots were as thin as moonshine vapour, but somehow everyone remembers the theme tune (Good Ol’ Boys by Waylon Jennings), the heroes Bo (John Schneider) and Luke (Tom Wopat), their orange Dodge Charger, called General Lee, and the short shorts worn by Daisy (Catherine Bach).

In this remake, Chandrasekhar packs in cheap, crass jokes, not entirely out of keeping with the original. However, in the show, most of the humour came from the predicaments the boys ended up in or, better still, from the comically talented James Best as Rosco. Here, contrived double entendres and toilet humour try to make us chuckle. Unlike the family friendly TV series, this isn’t one you’ll want to take the kids to.

The car was always the real selling point of the show and it’s no different here. The bright orange Dodge Charger has never looked better, and the film does a fantastic job of making it seem even more powerful than hardcore fans will remember. The chases really capture the spirit of the show in a way none of the worn-out old gags do. The car is a beast and though they may not necessarily rate as the best chase scenes ever captured on screen, they’re still pretty good.

The jokes about the Dukes being in the modern world do kind of work. They catch flak for having a Confederate flag on the General Lee and Hogg is scolded for wearing white after Labour Day. It’s trying to please both camps: those who enjoyed the TV show for its simple charm and broad humour, and those who liked it for its camp value. It’s hard to have it both ways, and the movie doesn’t achieve it.

Its biggest mistakes are the characters of Hogg and Roscoe. In the TV series, they were a Laurel and Hardy sort of pair, bumbling, blustering, sputtering idiots. Here, Reynolds is far too slick and Gainey makes Roscoe slimy and evil, not at all the loveable stuttering rogue that James Best was. Knoxville and Scott have a certain dumb-gay charm and humour, but Jessica Simpson’s eyes bug out whenever she’s concentrating hard on acting. Considering how funny the film could have been, either as a faithful big screen adaptation or as a winking parody, this sloppy mix doesn’t cut it.

However, don’t rush away at the end, the outtakes are well worth staying for. Nelson brings us a song and you get to see the high-flying car stunts that go wrong.