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"THE DUKES OF HAZZARD"
(2005) (Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy/Action: Two Southern cousins try to stop their county's corrupt commissioner and his minions from taking their uncle's land for their own financial gain.
PLOT:
In Hazzard County, cousins Bo Duke (SEANN WILLIAM SCOTT) and Luke Duke (JOHNNY KNOXVILLE) are just a bunch of good old boys who, with the help of their fetching cousin Daisy Duke (JESSICA SIMPSON), help with the moonshine business run by their Uncle Jesse (WILLIE NELSON). Good natured but mischievous, the cousins occasionally have a run-in with Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane (M.C. GAINEY) and his deputies, including Enos (MICHAEL WESTON), but their bigger concern lies with Boss Hogg (BURT REYNOLDS).

He's the corrupt country commissioner who has his fingers in everything, controls most everyone in town, and now has his sights set on Uncle Jesse's farm. With the aid of local mechanic Cooter (DAVID KOECHNER) and resident conspiracy theorist Sheev (KEVIN HEFFERMAN), Bo and Luke set out to stop Boss Hogg, which includes a trip to an Atlanta college where they meet up with Hazzard student Katie Johnson (NIKKI GRIFFIN) and her friend Annette (JACQUI MAXWELL).

With the annual Hazzard Road Race rally as the backdrop -- in which local boy turned racing pro Billy Prickett (JAMES RODAY) is competing -- the cousins set out to thwart Boss Hogg and his minions before they get their greedy hands on the family farm.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
In the world of filmmaking, certain names can inspire confidence in truly awful-sounding films, while others can be the death knell for even the most promising effort. Had the likes of James Cameron or Quentin Tarantino been attached to "The Dukes of Hazzard" (yes, I know, a massive stretch of anyone's imagination), I might have believed it had a fighting chance of at least being interesting.

At the same time, had someone like Jay Chandrasekhar been behind the camera for "Saving Private Ryan," "Citizen Kane" or "Gone with the Wind," neither the cast nor source material would have had a chance of offsetting the -- how shall I put this politely -- awful direction.

While it's possible the filmmaker could yet turn into something special or at least competent one day, his track record of "Super Troopers," "Club Dread" and now this film inspire about as much hope as an ice cream sandwich has on a blacktop parking lot in the middle of a steamy, mid-summer Georgia day.

Then again, one shouldn't exactly be expecting much considering the source material is a TV series from the late '70s through the mid '80s about "some good ol' boys, never meanin' no harm." All of which was best known for a literally high flying, confederate themed Dodge Charger and Catherine Bach's barely there cut-off shorts that went on to inspire a name for their style -- "Daisy Dukes."

Beyond that, it was rather insipid if good-natured stuff about a bunch of moonshine runners, the inept local law and a rotund villain by the name of Hogg (not to mention a bit character who went on to become a U.S. Congressman). Speaking of the latter, Ben "Cooter" Jones recently chastised the filmmakers for turning the original "wholesome" family entertainment into a racy and risqué offering.

While he has a point (although it's nothing compared to Jessica Simpson's soft-core porn video for her rendition of "These Boots Are Made For Walking"), he should have been more concerned with Chandrasekhar and company failing to prove they had any reason to adapt the series into a feature-length film. Yes, it's as dumb as the original and there are car chases (and slow motion, airborne vehicle shots), cartoon villains, moonshine and those famous shorts now wrapped tightly around Ms. Simpson.

And while I'll admit there are a smattering of funny moments (including some very brief modernizing or updating of the material such as making fun of the Confederate angle, although the soundtrack is nearly nonstop Southern rock hits from the original show's era), the plot -- penned by John O'Brien ("Starsky & Hutch," "Cradle 2 the Grave") -- plays out like nothing more than a lame, over-extended episode of the TV show (and that's not saying much).

This week, the Duke boys -- that being Seann William Scott ("The Rundown," the "American Pie" films) and Johnny Knoxville ("Lords of Dogtown," "Jackass the Movie") playing the parts originated by John Schneider and Tom Wopat -- must stop the nefarious Boss Hogg -- Burt Reynolds ("The Longest Yard," "Without a Paddle") -- from taking over the family farm owned by Willie Nelson playing a pot-head version of Denver Pyle (the joke being that Nelson reportedly partakes in real life).

Guest stars this week include James Roday playing a local racing legend and Nikki Griffin and Jacqui Maxwell as some pretty coeds the boys pick up on a quick road trip to the big city. Flirtin,' shootin,' and flyin' cars ensue.

If the TV show had one thing going for it, it was that it was only 60 minutes long (including commercials) and at least the cast fit into their parts. In other words, they felt Southern. Here, they feel like Hollywood stars and others shoehorned into their roles, although Simpson is surely easy on the eyes and I've enjoyed Scott and Knoxville in some of their previous endeavors so I cut them a little slack.

Unfortunately, Chandrasekhar can't resist the temptation to insert himself into the proceedings as one of his past characters -- the obnoxious county mountie from "Super Troopers" -- in a cameo that most won't understand since few actually saw that cinematic travesty.

While name recognition and star power alone will likely prevent that from happening to this film, the cast and crew may be making their way, the only way they know how (to paraphrase the theme song's lyrics), but that only reiterates that these southern princes are not anywhere near the caliber of cinematic royalty. "The Dukes of Hazzard" rates as just a 3.5 out of 10.




Reviewed August 1, 2005 / Posted August 5, 2005


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