In 2005, because Starsky & Hutch made a large amount of money at the box office, a feature-length film based on The Dukes of Hazzard was released. It, based on the television series, didn’t make a ton of money, but it did well enough that the studio decided a direct-to-DVD prequel was in order. Thus, we get The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning, which attempts to explain to us how Bo and Luke became the “lovable” “rebels” that they are in the last film.
I say “attempts” because this movie does such a lackluster job at explaining anything that has to do with the characters that I threw my hands up and stopped caring. Bo and Luke seem to be the same characters they are in the theatrical film right from the beginning, and the only change they have to go through is liking the small town of Hazzard. There’s one scene where they come to this revelation, but it comes out of nowhere and is so inconsequential and poorly set up that I began to think everyone was doing the film because they needed the money.
However, the only cast member who returned for this installment was Willie Nelson, who plays Uncle Jessie. Hopefully everyone else was either too embarrassed or was well-paid enough to move on to other projects. Bo is now played by Jonathan Bennett, while Luke is played by Randy Wayne. They’re teenage characters in this film, sent to Hazzard as punishment for … something — I honestly can’t remember. Their eventual goal is to bring down the evil Boss Hogg (Chris McDonald) because he wants to foreclose on their farm. Again, I can’t remember why and it doesn’t matter.
The film also “attempts” to make you laugh, although I didn’t even come close to chuckling, let alone full-blown laughter. I can’t remember the last time I saw a comedy so completely and utterly devoid of laughter. And there are attempts to make you laugh; they’re just not funny. The previous Dukes of Hazzard had this problem, too. The property just isn’t funny enough — or the talent behind it isn’t — to work as a comedy.
There is only a single thing that The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning does that interested me, and that was turn the character of Daisy Duke (now played by April Scott) into the opposite of a sex symbol. Considering that was the sole purpose of the character in the earlier film, playing a completely against that is an intriguing idea. The film only sticks to that for about half of its running time — yes, she eventually puts on the shorts and is used to distract men, but the character is interesting and different for half the film.
What of the “Dukes of Hazzard”? Does anyone care? They drive around in their car, make stupid statements, leer at the women of the town, make more stupid statements, and then try to bring down Boss Hogg. That’s about it. You saw the least film; this one is just worse in pretty much every way. That’s kind of impressive, actually, considering how devoid of joy and laughs its predecessor was. Someone should award the cast and crew for somehow “topping” that complete disaster. Someone else, please, as they probably won’t want to talk to me after reading this review.
Who really wanted to see this film? Sure, The Dukes of Hazzard made some money, but I don’t remember a lot of people liking it. People saw it out of curiosity or fond nostalgia for the property. Does anyone care how Bo and Luke came to possess the General Lee (their car, in case you fell asleep like I came close to doing)? Or how they came to Hazzard in the first place? Or why Boss Hogg, corrupt as he may be, is right in disliking them? Anyone? I’m not.
And the formula couldn’t even be significantly altered. We’re not doing much different from two years ago when we saw The Dukes of Hazzard. The plot is almost identical, right down to the villain’s nefarious plan — which involves taking possession of the Duke’s farm. The only change is that the Duke boys are initially — like, for one scene — reluctant to do anything because they’re not even of age. But that’s forgotten about because thinking isn’t something this movie does.
I suppose one has to give credit to Jonathan Bennett and Randy Wayne, because they sort of look and act like the stars of the original film, Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville. So, in terms of at least keeping the characters consistent with the film for which this movie is supposed to be a prequel, they do fine. They don’t show good acting and their comedic timing is nonexistent, but as impersonators of stars who cost too much to bring back, they’re okay. I hope they pick better projects in the future.
The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning did something I didn’t think was going to be possible. It was worse than the original. How lifeless, joyless, and unfunny do you have to be in order for that to happen? The answer: very. This is a horrid film that you should avoid at all costs. It might be less threatening to your life to get behind the wheel of a speeding car while blindfolded. I’m only kind of joking. There isn’t a thing to like about this prequel to a movie that shouldn’t have existed in the first place.