The Birthday Series – The Dukes of Hazzard (2005)
As a rule, like movies based on video games, those that are based on TV shows are nearly always awful. Every rule has exceptions of course, but for every ‘Mission Impossible’, ‘South Park’ or ‘The Fugitive’, there’s ten like ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’, ‘Wild Wild West’ and ‘Sex and the City’. Part of this may stem from the quality of the original show, but more often than not there’s a reason why a TV show doesn’t translate to the big screen. It’s specifically designed for an episodic format on the small screen, and unless they either subvert the original show, such as ‘The Brady Bunch Movie’ it’s generally comes down to cramming the movie with as much recognisable things that made the TV show popular.
In the case of ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’, the original show was never that good (judging from the distant memory I have of it). It was passable entertainment in the cheesy 80’s TV standard, but the only thing I really remember from it is the car, and they would freeze frame when it did a big jump. But stretching this show out to feature length running time is a pointless exercise if you don’t have a unique take on it. Just updating it with Stifler and the bloke from Jackass to placate the kids is not good enough, and the result is redundant.
Beau (Sean William Scott) and Luke Duke (Johnny Knoxville) are good ol’ boys from Hazzard, Georgia. In their Dodge Charger named General Lee they run moonshine for Uncle Jesse (Willie Nelson) and their cousin Daisy (Jessica Simpson). Their arch nemesis is Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds), who’s whacky schemes always seem to get thwarted by those no good Dukes. Here, Hogg has a plan to take over a number of local farms, including the Dukes, so that he can strip mine the land. There’s also the annual road rally, which Beau has won for four consecutive years, equalling the record of local hero turned Nascar driver Billy Pricket (James Roday). Boss Hogg has brought back Prickett for the race, figuring the hoopla over the big star will distract the town from a meeting where they could block his plan for the strip mine. Can the Dukes save the town, win the race and give ol’ Hogg some well-deserved payback? Does a bear shit in the woods?
Where to start with this movie? Really, it looks like William Scott and Knoxville are having a great time making it, but who gives a shit when it doesn’t translate to the screen? I have found both these actors to be quite likeable onscreen before, and as I said, you can see they are enjoying themselves. But how about us? It’s supposed to be a comedy, but it’s completely devoid of any laughs. I don’t even know where the humour was supposed to come from, as the majority of the film is made up of car chases. And there really isn’t much that’s funny about car chases. Both Nelson and Simpson are as untalented in the acting department as each other, and Reynolds is in full ‘Striptease’ buffoon mode painfully overacts. It’s all a bit embarrassing.
‘Hazzard’ is directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, well known from the comedy group ‘Broken Lizard’. Indeed, many of the familiar faces of ‘Broken Lizard’ appear here in supporting roles, and as with every film they’ve made since the terrific ‘Super Troopers’, it’s utterly devoid of wit and intelligence. There are so many car chases in the film that it all becomes tiresome by the time the big race finally rolls around. I actually thought the car scenes were well filmed, and in far smaller doses might have been a real highlight of a very ordinary film, but as soon as one finishes, another one starts, and they just kept going on and on to the point of irritation.
The humour is so simple minded, obvious and uninspired it started to feel a little like one of those ‘Carry on…’ sex comedies from the 60’s. I lost count of how many times Simpson strips down to next to nothing so that she can manipulate the morons that populate Hazzard into giving her whatever the screenplay required her to get. Not that I’m complaining too much, as Simpson does look good in next to nothing. But really, when a film opens with Knoxville in his underwear climbing out of a bedroom window and getting chased and shot at by a girls brother, we know we aren’t in for a laugh riot.
‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ was never going to be a good film, but they had the ingredients and there could’ve been a mildly entertaining one made from the material. But it’s all let down by the terrible screenplay, which makes no attempt at humour and instead just inserts the words “car chase” throughout. Don’t bother seeing this one, if you have been lucky to avoid it thus far.
I appreciate you all coming to my 2005 birthday. Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.
For Droids a jolly good fellow!