Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Dukes of Hazzard

Posted By on Wed, Aug 10, 2005 at 12:00 AM

Back when CBS’ Dukes of Hazzard ruled the airwaves in the ’70s, an entire generation of too-young-to-know-better kids would sit through hour after hour of redneck-worshipping story lines, community-theater quality acting and Confederate-state racism just to get to the moment when General Lee, the famed 1969 Dodge Charger, took flight. To see the Duke Boys punch the accelerator and sail into the sky was a thing of beauty. The only thing that would’ve made it better was if the show were on a huge screen, 10 times the size of the TV — no, 100 times the size of the TV. ...

Be careful what you wish for. Some 25 years later, the Dukes have finally made it to the multiplex, and even the show’s harshest critics will be surprised at how bad the final result is. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with putting a couple of bar-brawling, tail-chasing, moonshine-running heroes up on the screen, especially not in the era of such hillbilly icons as Larry the Cable Guy and, well, our president. No one expects anything resembling wit from the Dukes. But it’s not too much to ask for a little charm, or maybe a couple of laughs, or even just one hair-raising car chase. Never has a movie worked so hard to be this dull.

If you’ve seen the trailers, or heard the new version of the theme song, or just read about the casting, then you’ve seen all you need to see. Two of the least laid-back men in movies today — Jackass star Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott, the man better known as “Stiffler” — step into the roles of the supposedly carefree Luke and Bo. The bubble-headed Jessica Simpson fills in the much-ballyhooed shorts of the once-brunette cousin Daisy, while lanky ’70s icon Burt Reynolds continues to whore out his name, in the role of the formerly troll-like Boss Hogg. Meanwhile, Willie Nelson — the one inspired choice in the whole cast — barely gets any screen time as the still-crotchety Uncle Jesse.

The plot (something about a rally race and an evil strip-mining plan) is told much like it was in the old series, with freeze-frames accompanied by twangy voice-overs, such as “If I were you, I wouldn’t go to the bathroom right now.” The nods to the original only emphasize how much longer and more interminable this new version is. Director Jay Chandrasekhar (Super Troopers) attempts to justify the movie’s existence with chase scenes, but most of them end up being a confusing blur of cars and asphalt. No, the film’s only raison d’être seems to be an excuse to use words like “sombitch,” “ballsack” and “ho-lee shit,” which gets old real fast.

Even a big-screen remake as bad as Starsky and Hutch at least made room for a couple of gleefully over-the-top supporting performances. The Dukes of Hazzard, on the other hand, takes a wild card like Knoxville and flattens him out, making him mug for the camera and perform stunts that are nowhere near as death-defying as the ones he used to do on Jackass. Making Knoxville blasé? Now that’s an accomplishment.

Michael Hastings writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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