The Dukes of Hazzard
2005, PG-13, 106 min. Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar. Starring Johnny Knoxville, Seann William Scott, Jessica Simpson, Burt Reynolds, Joe Don Baker, Willie Nelson, Lynda Carter.
REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., Aug. 5, 2005
Folks, welcome back to Hazzard County, Ga. Round these parts life moves slower than a key grip with union wages, even when Bo and Luke Duke (Scott and Knoxville) are blowing things up with flaming arrows and Boss Hogg (Reynolds) is grabbing more farmland than you can tear up with 26 Dodge Chargers and a case of moonshine. How can a movie narrated by Junior Brown and backed with wall-to-wall Southern rock – a movie that at one point features co-stars Nelson and Carter tied together, surely a first in celluloid history – be so uneventful? Why, it’s lazier than Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane’s good-for-nothing hound dog, Flash. If you don’t cotton to Simpson’s cleavage, which you’ll see in just about every scene (and which is replaced by the more low-rent jiggle of The O.C.’s Nikki Griffin when Simpson is absent), there’s just not much going on in these 106 minutes of ain’t-it-cool quasi-nostalgia. The boys jump a bridge; the boys brawl in a roadhouse; we freeze-frame on Scott’s repertoire of "Oh, shit!" expressions. The cast seems to be enjoying themselves – Knoxville could probably enjoy waiting his turn at the Social Security Administration office – but not even Reynolds’ Machiavellian capering (minus the Sorrell Booke fat suit) drew a laugh from the audience. Left to fill the void are Baker (give him a few scenes to warm up) and a fo-shizzling nameless inmate in the Dukes’ Atlanta holding cell. (Now he gives Reynolds something to play against.) Scriptwriter John O'Brien (of last year’s similarly tepid Starsky & Hutch) drops references to e-mail and The Usual Suspects – out of boredom? Would that this movie were trashier than it actually is. You’ll have to wait for the closing credits to see Knoxville stick his ass in Scott’s face. Blink and you’ll miss Rip Taylor! (No confetti.) Director Chandrasekhar (of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe) seems at times overly devoted to the source material – the after-dinner guilty pleasure of a generation, but hardly sacrosanct – yet he somehow manages to simultaneously strip it of whatever joy is to be had watching backwoods parolees stick it to the Man. Instead we transplant the Duke boys to Atlanta for some fish-out-of-water hijinks, and the heavy lifting is left to the crusty old character actors (even Barry Corbin shows up for a spell) and Simpson’s heinie. Which is a lot less fun than it sounds.