Cousins. Outlaws. Thrillbillies.
It's 1980, for six years now I've been tuning in to the BBC after Grandstand to watch my favourite (then and now) TV show Doctor Who. But my life was about to change, Grandstand finished, but no Who? Instead there were cartoons and then a strange American show about two cousins driving a big orange car, before my beloved Who started. This was all rather unsettling, coupled with the fact that my Doctor was about to change Saturday evenings were about to change forever. However, with little to inspire my viewing on either of the other two channels, the American show, it would have to be, until my program was on. Perhaps a sentiment held by a majority of the populace because The Dukes of Hazzard became a hugely popular show. Taking as its premise a small family unit at odds with the constabulary, it weaved a gentle comedic nature around strong family values, holding the audience with enough car chase action and the sublime Catherine Bach. It was unlike anything on British TV at the time, even if it hadn't had a 'forced' time slot, it had enough charm to win an audience, went on for seven seasons and still has legions of fans. Hollywood, with its passion for remakes, or reinterpretations, are forever rehashing older material, as such, Warner Brothers, who originally made the TV series, gave the green light to a Dukes of Hazzard feature film; would it be another Avengers, or another Starsky and Hutch?
The next paragraph details significant plot details and as such should be regarded as spoilers.
Bo (Seann William Scott ) and Luke (Johnny Knoxville) Duke are two young hot heads running moonshine in the town of Hazzard in Georgia USA. Bo is a keen driver, winner of the annual Road Rally four years running, Luke a womaniser of epic proportions. Together they run moonshine for their uncle Jessie (Willy Nelson) and look out for their other cousin Daisy (Jessica Simpson). On the other side of the coin there is Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds) and Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, the Duke's nemesis. The plot of the film has Boss Hogg seizing farms of Hazzard, including Jessie's, on trumped up charges, so he can strip mine coal, reducing Hazzard to a wasteland. To bypass the necessary public consultation, Hogg hires a NASCAR racer to win the Rally against popular favourite Bo, ensuring all attention is there, not at the consultation. Things don't go quite according to plan, as Bo and Luke invade the construction site, steal the safe and take the encased core samples to Atlanta in an attempt at 'fish out of water and thus comedy' routine, to have them identified and thus formulate a plan to thwart Hogg's dastardly scheme. It is a very simple plot with few twists or turns and runs with a pretty fast pace along a nice predictable path taking in plenty of screaming, shouting and car chases.
The film does contain many of the elements that made the series such a hit, all the characters make an appearance, right down to Flash the dog, Bo and Luke use bow and arrows, the narration, Daisy's shorts and crucially the General Lee, the '69 Dodge Charger muscle car that the series of most famous for. What it does not have, however, is the charm or innocence of the TV show and consequently the film suffers terribly. This is not a case of nostalgia, rather a crass Hollywood stereotyping to appeal to a single demographic, in this case the adolescent male. The film is filled with fast cars, female flesh, bad language and Johnny Knoxville, if ever there was a film aimed fairly and squarely at the MTV, or more specifically the Jackass generation, then this is it. Hollywood at is most pandering, Hollywood at its worst. Some view the film as an insult to the TV show, I view it as an insulting film.
Inevitably there is comparison between the characterisation; the heart of the TV show was the relationship between the Duke family, Jessie was a strong father figure to the boys and had a strict sense of values and justice, even when he crossed swords with Hogg, his morality was always a winning factor. But in the film, he is reduced to a weed smoking, joke telling has been, rather throw a punch than take the high ground. Conversely Boss Hogg and Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, although the shows bad guys were often more bumbling than a threat, even though they had a mean streak, they were never as malevolent and evil as portrayed in the film. When it came down to it, Hogg, as bad as he was, would always put the town first, even joining the Dukes when threatened beyond his capabilities, I guess the modern audience are unable to grasp the concept of grey. Oh with regard to Rosco, I missed the “dya dya dya” laugh and the emphasis on the “P” too. Daisy was always the sex object of the show, however she was a woman of her time, often matching the boys for one liners and always able to hold her own; her looks were fortuitous never obligatory. In the film however she is reduced to nothing more than a blond object, there only to titillate, even her lines emulate this “I'll have to shake my ass to get them out”. There is a big thing made about how Simpson's shorts are shorter than Bach's, much like her talent. Finally the Duke boys, Bo and Luke, closer than brothers, they had each others back, I sure as hell don't remember any 'one up man ship' or crude jokes and bed hopping. But I guess the next generation are not happy unless their protagonists are spouting inane drivel in the worst type of accent, surrounded by big cars, loose women and explosions. It says something when the General Lee car can out act and upstage the two main cast members every time it's on.
This DVD is the unrated version, this means that it has more swearing, more boobies and is generally lower brow than the theatrical release, mostly centred around the boys walking around the girls dorm room at the university in Atlanta - typical male fantasy rubbish; it does however contain the few seconds of Jessie taking a drag on a joint embedded in an apple that was removed from the theatrical release here in the UK. Taken as a whole the film is crass, vulgar and unashamedly aimed at the adolescent male; think of the smut of Porky's with the car chases of the Blues Brothers in a film with as much entertainment value as watching paint dry, strung out over the monumental run time of 106 minutes. Billed as a comedy there were perhaps two times when I raised a smile, both times at puerile slapstick humour, but I kinda like that. I don't consider this a remake of the TV show, it is so different in tone and devise, that even though the names are the same, it cannot be comparable. Fans of the TV show won't get much from it, I didn't, but the next generation might, though even they shouldn't be fooled by the blatant disregard for story telling just to show another car crash or more female flesh. I'd sum up this film in one word, but that would be an insult to rubbish.
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