I always enjoy checking out when a film updates an old TV show and “The Dukes of Hazzard” is a nice example of doing it the right way. It doesn’t have the same tenor as the TV original – and that’s usually bad; just take “Bewitched” as one example – and I wasn’t a fan of the TV show. However, I decided to check out the movie version and found an entertaining cast (who doesn’t like Burt Reynolds?) that helps make this one really worth watching. Don’t turn your nose up at it, since “The Dukes of Hazzard” even has a simply hilarious take on the “Dukes” dealing with the Confederate flag on the roof of their car. I think of a huge number of ways you can waste just over 1½ hours rather than watching this one. You don’t have to think; you’ll enjoy it; and the humor is solid – especially Willie Nelson’s quips.
‘The Dukes of Hazzard’
(2005; 107 minutes; rated R; directed by Jay Chandrasekhar and starring Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville and Jessica Simpson)
CALL THEM APPALACHIAN-AMERICANS!
(NOTE: I updated this review on Jan. 30, 2016, with additional trivia, opinion and updated links and then did the same thing on July 7, 2017.)
Yesterday, I reviewed “Monster-in-Law” (click here for my review) from 2005 but if you look down a couple of notches on the top box office films of that year you’ll find another funny one that is a completely different kind of humor and actually is even funnier in some places: “The Dukes of Hazzard.” It is a revival of the iconic TV series that ran 1979 through 1985 – so it comes as no surprise that it’s a shallow and stupid film, but it’s shallow and stupid done very well and you won’t be disappointed.
“The Dukes of Hazzard” is done by the “Broken Lizard” comedy troupe, with Jay Chandrasekhar in the director’s chair and he does a great bit part kind of spoofing himself and the group’s effort in their even more hilarious effort “Super Troopers.” All five “Broken Lizard” members appear here and, like with “Super Troopers,” you’ll find yourself laughing. In fact, once you get past the empty silliness of the plot, you can enjoy the cast, which includes wonderful supporting turns from Burt Reynolds, Willie Nelson and even a small part for TV’s “Wonder Woman” herself Lynda Carter.
What updates “The Dukes of Hazzard” movie from its TV origin is that there is a lot of smoking of marijuana and a few nude scenes. You never found that in the original or else it would have been even more popular!
I guess since I enjoy the humor, it isn’t a surprise that “The Dukes of Hazzard” was a total flop with critics and was nominated for a number of awards in the annual “Razzies” that highlights the worst films of any given year. Ah, they couldn’t take a joke – or apparently enjoy one, either.
As you might remember from the TV show, the Duke cousins “Bo” and “Luke” race around the fictional “Hazzard County” in Georgia and thwart the nefarious schemes of “Boss Hogg.” Well, the film replicates that concept with a brief interlude in the big city at a college for some coed nudity and the scheme here is to buy up all the land and strip mine it.
So, the plot is just an excuse to get the guys into their trademark Dodge Charger and speeding across rural Georgia as well as in the big city of Atlanta. The boys save the day (of course) and their cousin “Daisy” wears short-shorts just like in the original and everyone’s happy (and then a bit more) at the end. Even the credits are handled great with outtakes – especially seeing what really happened to the cars during stunts.
The main players here are Seann William Scott and Johnny (“Jackass”) Knoxville as, respectively, “Bo Duke” and “Luke Duke.” They’re the fun-loving guys and just want to have some fun … as well as some bootlegging. It was fortunate to bring these two together and they fill their roles with just the correct amount of energy and actually truly work well together.
Here’s a rundown of some of the principal cast:
- Knoxville is a very under-appreciated comedy actor since you have to forget his “Jackass” persona to consider his true talent. He’s brash and open here and does a good job but while the material suits him and he gets a passing grade, it’s not as good as the work he did in “Big Trouble” (click here for my review). Knoxville is watchable and fun and with his cutting-edge humor just waiting to erupt, he’s also unpredictable. Knoxville has also been in “Men in Black II” as well as voicing “Johnny Krill” for TV’s “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
- Scott does a nice job of being the car-focused of the Duke boys. He even wants to have a physical relationship with their car. Scott is just as energetic as he is in “Dude, Where’s My Car?” but just a notch or two below his much better work in “Role Models” with Paul Rudd. Scott has also been in “ Woodcock” (click here for my review), “Road Trip” (click here for my review) and of course was the profane, volatile “Stifler” in the “American Pie” franchise (click here for my review of franchises).
- As the female lead here, Jessica Simpson is another casting homerun as “Daisy Duke” – you know, of the short-shorts fame. Simpson does a commendable job here as both the window dressing and tough person with whom to deal. She’s fun but also fatalistic that she’s going to have to use her physical beauty to help the cause. At least she doesn’t take it seriously and this raises her stock more than a few notches. Simpson has also been in “Employee of the Month.”
- Of course the best of the supporting cast is Reynolds as “Boss Hogg,” the bad guy who’s always got some scheme going. He hates the Dukes and Reynolds knocks this one out with a bit of panache but it had to be easy for him. Of course Reynolds is “The Bandit” from “Smokey and the Bandit” fame (click here for my review) as well as being in “Hooper” (click here for my review), “The Cannonball Run” (click here for my review) and even deeper drama with “Boogie Nights.”
- The actor with the most insouciance is Nelson as “Uncle Jesse Duke,” who enjoys spinning off quickie jokes as one-liners just about every time he’s on camera. There’s also homage to his past at the end-of-film BBQ in the “smoking” shed. Nelson is a natural before the camera and even his outtake in the credits is funny. Nelson has also been in “The Electric Horseman” (click here for my review) with Robert Redford and on TV shows such as “Monk.”
- Rising to the top of the rest is Kevin Heffernan, who plays “Derek ‘Sheev’ Sheevington.” He is an ally of the Dukes, runs a bait shop, wears armadillo helmets to keep out government brain scans and likes to blow things up. Heffernan, who is a member of “Broken Lizard,” does as great a job here as the dense, paranoid but basically fun backwoods crank. He was just as good in the group’s “Beerfest” and “Super Troopers” and has also been in and directed “The Slammin’ Salmon” with the “Broken Lizard” team.
Three other actors worth noting are James Roday as “Billy Pritchett,” who is an ally of Reynolds; David Koechner as “Cooter Davenport;” and Carter, who plays Nelson’s significant other “Pauline.”
- Roday completely overplays his hand here and you can develop the suspicion he was intentionally not doing a good job in order to win a bet with a friend or practicing for one of his assumed characters in TV’s “Psych.” The effort here is weak and Roday is almost mocking the acting profession with his take on the snotty race car driver. Roday was much better on “Psych” and has also been in Broken Lizard’s uneven but funny “Beerfest.”
- Koechner is truly funny in each film I’ve seen with him in it and “The Dukes of Hazzard” is no exception. His talent overrides the thinness of his character and he manages to elevate it, unlike Roday. Koechner has been in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” and its sequel, also a great bit part in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” as well as the outstanding “Thank You for Smoking” (click here for my review).
- “Wonder Woman” Carter has the easiest of these three roles and looks as if she’s just having a bit of fun doing this one. Carter is also a veteran with Broken Lizard as she was in “Super Troopers” and has also had dozens of TV roles including “Starsky and Hutch” as well as “Law & Order.”
The single funniest line in the film is when Knoxville and Scott are confronted by a group of black guys in Atlanta. They have soot on their face from a university lab incident (follow me here; don’t worry about the plot) and are driving a car with a Confederate flag painted on top. One of the black guys calls them “hillbillies” and Knoxville replies, “Actually, we prefer Appalachian-Americans.” Seriously, it’s a great comedy moment.
So, “The Dukes of Hazzard” isn’t great cinema. So what? It’s fun to watch and you’ll be smiling after. Absolutely nothing wrong with that kind of review. Oh, and by the way, I’m reviewing the unrated version from the DVD, not the theatrical release.
“The Dukes of Hazzard” was the 26th ranked film at the U.S. box office in 2005 with $80.2 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. Worldwide, “The Dukes of Hazzard” made $111 million on a $50 million budget, according to Wiki. “The Dukes of Hazzard” and trailed far behind the year’s No. 1 film: “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” with $380.2 million. Other films from 2005 that I’ve reviewed include:
- “Bad News Bears” (OK remake of classic) – click here for my review
- “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” (good comedy sequel) – click here for my review
- “A History of Violence” (terrific dark drama) – click here for my review
- “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” (hilarious sex comedy) – click here for my review
- “Monster-In-Law” (very funny J-Lo/Fonda) – click here for my review
Assorted cast and film notes (via IMDb.com):
- The three original “Dukes” (Tom Wopat, John Schneider and Catherine Bach) were offered cameos but declined reportedly because they hated the script. Another main cast player from the original was quoted as saying he thought the film should not have such a mature theme since the TV show was so family friendly.
- Thank goodness that the talentless hack named Ashton Kutcher didn’t get to play one of the Duke boys. Some idiot considered him for the part and thankfully this is one time idiocy didn’t win out and an audience subject to Kutcher’s incompetence.
- Dolly Parton reportedly turned down the role ultimately given to Carter.
- Knoxville’s real name is Philip John Clapp.
- “The Dukes of Hazzard” is Simpson’s first feature film role.
- Directly from IMDb.com: “Many of the jumps and car chase scenes were filmed on an agricultural research station at Louisiana State University. The station was leased to Warner Brothers during the off season.”
- Finally and directly from IMDb.com: “Twenty-six Dodge Chargers were used in this film. Several 1968 and 1970 Chargers were converted to look like 1969 Chargers. Only one Hemi Charger was used, the rest were 440s, 383s and a few small-block 318s.”
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