THE DUKES OF HAZZARD
*** (out of 5)
August 5, 2005
Johnny Knoxville as LUKE DUKE
Seann William Scott as BO DUKE
Jessica Simpson as DAISY DUKE
Burt Reynolds as BOSS HOGG
Joe Don Baker as GOVERNOR JIM APPLEWHITE
Lynda Carter as PAULINE
Willie Nelson as UNCLE JESSE
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Jay Chandrasekhar
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
“The Dukes of Hazzard” is the next installment of a long line of television shows ripped from our memories and thrown up onto the big screen. Overall, television adaptations haven’t been as successful as remakes and books-to-movies. For every “Flintstones,” there’s a “Fat Albert” or “Bewitched.” In fact, there have been several television shows-turned-movies this year, and all have seemed to flop.
Overall, “The Dukes of Hazzard” has a lot going for it. A beloved show. A hot cast. An opening weekend with no other major release opposing it. The stars seem to be aligned. But then again, it is August, which is known as the sewer of summer releases.
Some day, I’d like to see a television-to-film adaptation that attempts to recapture the magic of the original. Some of the television film spoofs have worked, like “The Brady Bunch” and “Starsky and Hutch.” However, recently when a writer or director has tried to put a new spin on an old show, it’s never quite lived up to the original.
Still, “The Dukes of Hazzard” isn’t going to surprise anyone. Just watch the trailers, and you’ll have the exact idea of what this film is going to be like. It’s the “Jackass” of the south. What else would you expect from Johnny Knoxville. It was this casting choice of Knoxville as Luke Duke and Seann William Scott as Bo Duke that initially left a bad taste in my mouth. Both actors have such a defined screen persona, I didn’t think I’d see anything but Stiffler and the guy from “Jackass.”
And ultimately, that’s all I saw. If you can stomach Stiffler as Bo and Knoxville as Luke, you could be okay with this movie. From the moment of casting Scott and Knoxville, the spirit of the original perished. When I was finally able to choke down their roles and accept the fact that this was more of a brain damaged interpretation of “The Dukes of Hazzard” than a classic remake, I was okay with the film.
This also helped me deal with the fact that Roscoe is completely changed in this movie. In the show, Roscoe was a loveable, but loyal sheriff. He had a big heart, but was Boss Hogg’s eternal lackey. In the movie, Roscoe’s much darker, taking on the role of the villain without a shred of humor.
Aside from the Roscoe misinterpretation, the rest of the characters work. Willie Nelson is terrifyingly comfortable as Uncle Jesse, and David Koechner does a fine job as the redneck mechanic Cooter. Still, the casting choice that is making most of the headlines is Jessica Simpson as Daisy Duke. To be honest, she was the one I was most looking forward to in this movie. (I liked to say that there were two big boobs I wanted to see in this movie, and they weren’t Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott.)
The filmmakers used Jessica Simpson completely to the full extent of her abilities. Let’s face it, she’s no great actor. Just a pretty face and a hot bod. And she worked. Man, did she work! I don’t know if seeing her parading around in a bikini on a 20-foot screen is worth the price of admission, but it was still fun to look at. I just hope that she doesn’t misinterpret any success from this film as a signal that she should become a serious actor.
“The Dukes of Hazzard” was directed by Broken Lizard’s Jay Chandrasekhar, and while I’ve generally liked the Broken Lizard films, this may have been a bit of a mistake. Chandrasekhar seems conflicted in this role, at times making the movie a southern “Super Troopers” and at other times trying pay rightful homage to the original show.
The rest of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe makes strategic cameos in the film. They’re funny for what they are, but it was too obvious to me that they were shoehorning the Broken Lizard folks into the roles.