Some shows are a billboard for their time, and nothing says late 70’s/early 80’s more than “The Dukes of Hazzard”. The saving grace of the original show was that it never pretended to be more than what it was – a story about two lunkhead cousins in the Deep South who would always get caught up in car chases and hang around with their ultra hot sister (one with a penchant for short shorts).
Subtext or cleverness be damned, it was good dumb clean fun for its young male demographic who would later dismiss the show when they found similar plotlines were being used on the big screen in the likes of “Porkys” or “Smokey and the Bandit” – only those had more tits and bigger stunts respectively. Now nearly thirty years on comes the big screen version of ‘Dukes’ and very little has changed – except most audience’s patience levels for this type of crap. As a film there’s no way to more plainly state it – “Dukes” royally sucks.
The whole point of doing a film adaptation of a TV show is to take the characters and situations and do them in a storyline that’s bigger and better than anything that could be done on the show. “Dukes” defies that logic by essentially just taking what seems to be a script of an old episode of the series (Boss Hog wants to strip mine Hazzard county), stretched it out to a little over double the runtime, and fills the resulting ultra thin material up with tired gags or having Jessica Simpson in a bikini or suggestively grinding her hips every few minutes.
You might say this is “Dukes of Hazzard” after all and so one shouldn’t have high expectations – fact is I didn’t have any whatsoever. A real litmus test is the film’s opening sequence where the big gag is a scruffy Seann William Scott getting a phone book thrown in his lap and him in a bad Southern accent saying “ouch, got me right in the ballsac” – you find that funny, you’ll love this film.
To their credit the Broken Lizard group, one of whom directed and the others whom cameo, do make this feel very much like the original show. The car chases are all done practically, the gags and storyline feel purely like this film was made 20+ years ago, and the score is decidedly on the nostalgic rock side. Only one “Brady Bunch Movie” style conceit is made where in one sequence the Dukes boys in their Confederate Flag painted Dodge Charger visit a university at Atlanta and get some nasty stares from the more modern locals.
Other than that, and a reused “Super Troopers” gag, there is nothing in the way of creativity here. Scott and Knoxville essentially play themselves, Simpson isn’t particularly bad – she’s too bland for that, and poor old Reynolds and Nelson really do seem to be needing those paychecks to cash in with this sort of crap. You can’t say those involved in the film didn’t have fun – sure looks like they had a blast. Shame is as an audience we can’t say the same.