The Dukes of Hazzard

I imagine the filmmakers and studio behind The Dukes of Hazzard looking at the Starsky & Hutch movie, seeing how much money it made by being incredibly stupid and intermittently funny, held together with only the loosest of plots, and having a recognizable car, and deciding to look back at other television series that people either remember fondly or pretend to remember fondly and see what other cash grabbing could occur. What did they dig up? The Dukes of Hazzard.

If you weren’t alive, can’t recall or would prefer not to remember, The Dukes of Hazzard was an ’80s television show about a group of cousins in a rural setting who do silly and sometimes stupid stuff. It ran for seven seasons, had over 140 episodes, and is mostly remembered because it inspired the term “Daisy Dukes” into popular vernacular — the term, of course, referring to short-cut jean shorts. If you live in North America, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the term before; if you live elsewhere, perhaps not.

The film version stars Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville — presumably because hiring better actors would be too expensive — as the “Duke Boys,” two cousins who are beloved by most of the residents of their small town, but despised by local law enforcement because they’re troublemakers. Or maybe the law knows how stupid they and their antics are. Intelligent members of the audience will also dislike them, as watching them for prolonged periods of time has the potential to cause brain damage. Just watching the 100 minutes this movie plays for might make you feel dumber than … than — see, I can’t even come up with anything for comparison’s sake.

If it matters to you, because you’re one of the three people who know all of the television show’s episodes by heart, or whatever, Scott plays Cousin Bo, while Knoxville plays Luke. How are they different characters? Well, Bo drives and would live to impregnate the family car, bright orange ’69 Dodge Charger, while Luke has nothing of importance to define him. He’s bland and while he might be playing the straight man in a movie made with any sense of what a good film looks like, he’s just a character who doesn’t even need to be in the film.

The two men live with their uncle, Jesse (Willie Nelson) and their other cousin, Daisy (Jessica Simpson). The family business is selling illegal moonshine, not that it matters. The bad guy in the film is Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds), who, as it is eventually revealed, wants to take over the town’s land and build a mine. His plan to do this is so terribly inconsequential that if you actually care, I suggest you just watch the movie.

There’s also a town race coming up, which Bo has won four years in a row. So, in order for the Duke Boys to succeed at life, they have to stop Boss Hogg and win the race, which I guessed before the film ended would happen pretty much at the same time. I frequently write “no prizes for guessing,” but I decided after the film to have some ice cream. Maybe this was related, maybe it wasn’t, but I know for certain the ice cream was better than the film.

The plot exists so that car chases can happen. The characters are here because one of them needs to drive a car. Daisy, as a character, appears infrequently because apparently men are willing to do anything, or give up any information, if a beautiful woman requests it — that’s her whole function in this film, by the way; Jessica Simpson shows up to be stared at for a few scenes. The jokes are typically unfunny and insultingly unintelligent, the action is as dull as action can be, and there aren’t going to be a whole lot of people smiling as it plays.

The Dukes of Hazzard is so empty. It contains very little joy, few jokes that connect (I think I counted two times I laughed), action we’ve seen before and consists mostly of car chases, characters who barely have any personality beyond being good or bad, and a plot which doesn’t go past “bad guys have to be stopped by good guys.” The rural setting isn’t endearing or even used in an interesting way, and somehow the studio wasted $50 million making a film which could have been done for a quarter of that.

I mean, for the actors at least, is this anything more than a paycheck production? They all seem completely uninterested in the proceedings, and the only way to explain such a large budget is that the cast members held out for more money. That, or Willie Nelson might have, ahem, inspired some of the cast and crew to take lengthy breaks with him in his trailer. That might explain the film’s lack of focus, definition, and ambition.

Is The Dukes of Hazzard a good film? Absolutely, 100% not. Some people might find it funny, but I can’t say I was one of those people. It’s a loosely plotted, unfunny bore of a film which moves back and forth between not trying to do anything and actively insulting the intelligence of those watching it. If you thought the Starsky & Hutch film was bad, you haven’t seen anything yet. The actors are here for the paycheck, and I urge you not to waste your money on this movie. Letting the studio take a hit might tell them we don’t want movies like this.

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