THE DUKES OF HAZZARD (2005)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 44 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sexual Content, Crude and Drug-related Humor, Language and Comic Action Violence

Hazzard poster

Directed by: Jay Chandrasekhar

Written by: John O’Brien

Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Seann William Scott, Jessica Simpson, Burt Reynolds, Willie Nelson, David Koechner, M.C. Gainey, Michael Weston

Adapting a TV series into a movie is not a new trend. It’s been going on as far back as the 80’s (I’m sure long before that too). I have never sat through a single episode of DUKES OF HAZZARD, so I can’t rightly say if this is a proper modern interpretation of the already campy-looking material. I can say that the movie is a letdown in many areas and does well enough in others as far as a filmmaking standpoint goes. DUKES OF HAZZARD isn’t a horrible way to pass the time, but it’s still technically bad in a lot of ways. This feels like an elongated episode of a modern incarnation of the series and less like a movie.

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Bo and Luke are cousins in the moonshine business. They transport their Uncle Jesse’s illegal product around town and are constantly in all sorts of trouble (as told to us by the narrating voiceover that sounds like it’s right out of ME, MYSELF & IRENE). When the meanest man in Hazzard county, Boss Hogg, plans to take over town, it’s up to the Duke family to take him down and sexy cousin Daisy Duke to help uncover a deeper conspiracy at work.

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On the plus side, there’s some ideal casting. While Seann William Scott is out-of-place as Bo, Johnny Knoxville and Burt Reynolds seem like they were born to be in a backwoods comedy like this one. Knoxville already comes off as a bit of a redneck and plays white-trash roles very well in any movie. The same can be said about his portrayal of Luke. Burt Reynolds hams it up as Boss Hogg. He seems to be having a blast in the role and is all-around scummy. The character does make for a good villain and one of the more entertaining people in the film. Jessica Simpson does all that’s really required as Daisy Duke. She’s sex appeal and eye candy. It sounds totally sexist of me to say that, but that’s the only truthful reason she was even recruited for this cast. Then there’s Willie Nelson. It sounds ideal on paper, but he isn’t given much to do as Uncle Jesse. Of the few scenes he’s allowed any dialogue, he mainly spouts off slightly dirtier versions of stale Laffy Taffy jokes.

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The sheer predictability of the script takes all the good qualities down a notch. It’s a feature-length episode where you can call what happens about an hour before it actually happens. Supposedly unexpected revelations come off as standard stuff. John O’Brien was one of the three writers behind 2004’s underrated TV-show-turned-movie STARSKY & HUTCH. DUKES OF HAZZARD isn’t up to the par of that aforementioned comedy. There are legitimately enjoyable car chases loosely strung together in the shabby story, but they are some of the highlights. I had a few good laughs, but the tired redneck cracks don’t break any new ground. Many of the road kill gags just become annoying as things move along.

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For the most part, DUKES is bland and well-worn in many respects. It should speak volumes that none of the primary cast from the original series made cameos or had anything to do with this movie reboot. STARSKY & HUTCH, THE A-TEAM, and 21 JUMP STREET (among many others) all had distinct production ties to their original series. That’s a sign that some sort of approval was given from those involved with the source material. None of that is seen in DUKES OF HAZZARD. There are two cast members from the original series and they only popped up for a couple of episodes at most. M.C. Gainey (playing the intimidating corrupt Sheriff) was only featured in a single episode and that’s it. There’s also a really odd SUPER TROOPERS cameo that references that film for no apparent reason other than to include a pointless moment that might get a few chuckles out of those who have seen that cult flick.

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THE DUKES OF HAZZARD isn’t terrible in the slightest, but it’s still bad. The bland script is its biggest downfall, but enjoyable car chases take up a significant amount of the screen time. Seann William Scott doesn’t seem to fit in with his fellow performers and Willie Nelson’s role is wasted, but Burt Reynolds and Johnny Knoxville are fun to watch. It’s not a total failure and I won’t condemn the entire thing. The bad far outweighs the good though, which is enough to warrant this grade.

Grade: D+

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