Just the good ol’ boys
Dukes re-do is all Daisy booty and flying cars, and that’s OK
“It rattled my sphincter!” That’s the reaction of a “smart” secondary character in The Dukes of Hazzard to one of the film’s gimcrack explosions, and it speaks for the film’s own studiously lowbrow aims while also setting a standard that this zestily farcical production has no real hope of living up to.
As a knucklehead entertainment based on the 1970s TV series of the same name, this exuberantly “dumb” action comedy makes its own gratuitousness into part of the joke. Both as an uncalled-for “remake” and as an amped-up film version of the TV series’ final episode, the 2005 Dukes pretends to have a story to tell but never ceases to be totally upfront about its lowdown motives. Hot car stunts and the bodacious Daisy Duke (pop star Jessica Simpson) are the prime souvenirs—and present-day selling points—of the TV series, and the movie is here to celebrate their mindless charms again while also magnifying the TV Dukes’ version of backwoods burlesque.
The onscreen results frequently resemble a big-screen vaudeville show, with automotive sidebars. The plotline has the Duke boys racing to undo the plans of Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds) to turn Hazzard County into one big strip mine, but the real action is in stunts and stuntedness—the automotive antics of Bo and Luke (Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville), the comic-strategic distractions provided by Daisy and her cornball calendar-girl curves, and the none-too-subtle clowning of an assortment of the Dukes’ friends, relatives and nemeses (with Reynolds, Willie Nelson, Lynda Carter and Joe Don Baker—stars of the earlier era—being among those doing the honors).
The movie Dukes still have the Confederate flag on their 1969 Dodge Charger and they still cavort in a seemingly all-white (and vaguely inbred) version of the hillbilly South. The production gets a little defensive on these matters when it concocts an episode that sends Bo and Luke into the big city (Atlanta) for a dose of contemporary reality. But, there too, the movie tries to walk both sides of the street—the Duke boys are briefly mocked for their political and historical backwardness, but by the time they visit an unnamed university campus, the film is back to the sex-crazed absurdities and fantasies suited to Bo and Luke.
Scott and Knoxville aren’t good enough to carry the movie all by themselves, but they contribute ably to the movie’s goofy ensemble stuff, as does Simpson. And goofy ensembles are what the movie Dukes are most about, even when Simpson’s Daisy is pretending to have “something stuck in my undercarriage.” It’s a hee-haw hoedown in which a cop named Enos mispronounces his own first name, and Uncle Jesse (Nelson) and the governor of the state (Baker) are out in the “smokehouse” doin’ Willie Nelson-kinda stuff.
The overall result is another amiable mishmash among the customarily raunchy flicks of summer—but less sly than Bad News Bears and not nearly as good as Wedding Crashers. It’s the sort of thing that calls for a hybrid “Popcorn Man"—crumpled but with a cockeyed grin, just the same.