"THE DUKES OF HAZZARD: THE BEGINNING"
by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)
Jonathan Bennett as BO DUKE
Randy Wayne as LUKE DUKE
April Scott as DAISY DUKE
Christopher McDonald as BOSS HOGG
Willie Nelson as UNCLE JESSE
Harland Williams as ROSCO P. COLTRANE
Joel Moore as COOTER
Todd Grinnell as HUGHIE
Adam Shulman as ENOS
Sherilyn Fenn as LULU HOGG
Studio: Warner Premiere
Directed by: Robert Berlinger
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As a child of the 80s, my life was defined by much of the pop culture of the day. This meant a steady stream of “Star Wars,” but it wasn’t all science fiction. I was also raised on the Duke boys of Hazzard County.
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When the big-budget feature film came out in 2005, I wasn’t terribly impressed. Don’t get me wrong. I laughed quite a bit, and I did enjoy watching those two boobs on screen (and I’m not talking about Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott). However, I found myself somewhat disappointed by the big screen interpretation.
The biggest problem with “The Dukes of Hazzard” was that they changed the basic elements of the original show. While Tom Wopat was never the better looking cousin, he could at least pass for a sex symbol, which was a far cry from whatever Johnny Knoxville passed for two years ago. And while the filmmakers nailed Daisy (like most red-blooded American men wanted to do, in fact), they changed Rosco from a bumbling sheriff into a creepy mean guy and Boss Hogg from a jovial and lovable villain to an all-too-slick wheeler dealer.
I didn’t expect a whole lot from the direct-to-DVD prequel “The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning,” but I could have expected more. Sure, it was a sophomoric mixture between the old television series and “American Pie,” but it actually fit the mold better than the first film did.
“The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning” shows us where the Duke boys came from. It begins with Bo (Jonathan Bennett) and Luke (Randy Wayne) getting in their own pots of trouble. They’re sent to live on their Uncle Jesse’s farm for the summer to straightend them out. Of course, Uncle Jesse is better known for distilling moonshine than actually running a farm. The two cousins become fast friends and eventually start running shine for their uncle.
Meanwhile, the dastardly county commissioner Boss Hogg is making a power grab. He’s hoping to foreclose on Uncle Jesse’s farm and capture his moonshine business. It’s up to the Duke boys to save the day.
This story felt a lot more like the old television show than the first feature film ever did. It wasn’t great cinema, but what do you expect? In putting together this prequel, the filmmakers actually were more true to the essense of the original Dukes of Hazzard than I’d seen before.
The cast fit better in the parts and was more enjoyable to watch the their theatrical counterparts (with the small exception of Jessica Simpson, who is always fun to watch). Harland Williams comes in to play Rosco, still slightly different from the character on the television show, but at least he was cut from the same cloth. Harland Williams is quite possibly one of the most underrated funnymen in the business.
Newcomer April Scott fills the Daisy Duke shorts well. She’s not as recognizable as Simpson was in the first film, but she exudes the spirit of Catherine Bach better. Let’s face it, Simpson was never a great actor. She just looked good in the short shorts. Scott manages to look great and play the character well.
The DVD comes with about a half hour of behind-the-scenes featurettes and a music video. It also comes in an unrated version that features plenty of bouncing breast (both bare and covered) for the “American Pie” crowd.
If you were let down by the first film like me, thinking the Broken Lizard crew broke more than their lizard on the film, give “The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning” a chance.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (1.85:1). French subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.