"Dukes" Drives Into Hazardous Territory
- Christian Hamaker Contributing Film and Culture Writer
- 2005 5 Aug
Release Date: August 5, 2005
Rating: PG-13 (sexual content, crude and drug-related humor, language and comic action)
Run Time: Approx. 97 minutes
Director: Jay Chandrasekhar
Actors: Johnny Knoxville, Seann William Scott, Jessica Simpson, Burt Reynolds, Joe Don Baker, with Lynda Carter and Willie Nelson
The “good ol’ boys” of Hazzard County – Bo and Luke Duke – step up to the big screen in the film version of "The Dukes of Hazzard," but fans of the CBS TV show on which the film is based should park their memories at the door. This uncomfortably crude update is aimed straight at today’s teenage audience, with enough eye-candy and car chases to satisfy undiscriminating boys and girls, but enough profanity and sexual suggestiveness to make a grown man blush.
Along for the ride with Bo (Seann William Scott) and Luke (Johnny Knoxville) Duke are cousin Daisy Duke (Jessica Simpson), Uncle Jesse (Willie Nelson), Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds), and the movie’s true star – the General Lee, a souped-up 1969 Dodge Charger that the camera loves even more than Jessica Simpson’s shapely figure.
The frivolous story recounts an attempted land-grab by Hazzard County’s corrupt commissioner, Boss Hogg, who, after discovering that the Duke family farm sits on a potential coal mine, sets out to claim the property and have it strip-mined – a comeuppance for Bo, Luke and their Uncle Jesse, who run a moonshine operation right under the noses of Boss Hogg and his law-enforcement underlings.
To ensure no one shows up in court to contest his claim to the property, Boss Hogg schedules the mandatory hearing at the same time as an annual Hazzard County car race, and pays a popular racecar driver to participate, distracting the townsfolk. Once Bo and Luke uncover Boss Hogg’s scheme, they rush to gather the evidence needed to expose his plan and preserve the family farm.
This 97-minute movie plays like an extended episode of the old TV program, with the Dukes’ final triumph never really in doubt. The disposable plot clearly is secondary to the filmmakers’ main concern: car chases, stunt scenes and the frivolous squabbles between Bo and Luke. Any fun to be had is in the telling of the story, but it’s here that the screenwriters fail the audience, putting loads of profanity in the characters’ mouths, and, in a blatant ploy to add diversity to the cast, taking Bo and Luke out of Hazzard County and onto a college campus in Atlanta. The racially charged “fish out of water” jokes and drug humor that follow are all too predictable – and offensive.
The movie’s only surprises are an occasional laugh, an exciting car chase, and the stunt casting of Simpson, Nelson and Reynolds. It all adds up to a mindless affair that might have been more enjoyable as a lightweight summer popcorn movie had the screenwriters resisted the urge to pepper the script with an abundance of foul language, and to spice up the proceedings with excessive double-entendres and lascivious shots of Jessica Simpson’s body.
At best, the movie is a featherweight romp that will be forgotten as soon as viewers leave the theater. But for discriminating viewers, the complete lack of anything excellent or praiseworthy in this routine movie will leave them feeling less edified – if not outright assaulted – than had they decided to skip it altogether.
AUDIENCE: Adults and older teens only
Drugs/Alcohol: “Moonshine” deliveries are Uncle Jesse’s business, aided and abetted by Bo and Luke; Daisy is shown working at the local bar.; the boys willingly enter a smoke-filled college dorm room – a habit they may have picked up from their Uncle Jesse, who is revealed to be a pot smoker.
Language/Profanity: A shockingly large amount of cussing before the opening credits – so much so that it may drive viewers out of the theater and straight to the refund window. In addition to the usual curse words, Bo exclaims “Holy hell!” at one point. The name of Jesus is taken in vain and is mentioned sarcastically. Daisy says she’ll have to “shake [her] a—” in order to help her brothers out of a predicament, to which Uncle Jesse replies, “That’s why we love you”; a campus police officer exclaims, “Mother of God!” Several double-entendres directed toward, or spoken by, Daisy. Uncle Jesse tells vulgar jokes. One character shouts to another, “Have you made your peace with God? Because you’re about to meet your Maker!”
Sex/Nudity: A woman is depicted from behind wearing only a bra, while sexual contact is implied; a silhouette of Daisy behind a shower curtain implies she’s nude, but the curtain is pulled back to reveal her fully clothed; a male college student blows a kiss at Bo and Luke; the boys have a heavy make-out session with their respective girlfriends in the General Lee.
Violence: A lengthy bar fight; several smashed-up cars; the cousins smack each other in the face using a heavy phone book; a dead animal is peeled off the General Lee; Luke gets dragged behind the General Lee while clinging to a metal safe; Bo burns Luke with an open flame.