The Low Road

An obnoxious brew of moonshine, cheesecake, car chases and rebel yells, 'Dukes of Hazzard' will rot your brain.


August 05, 2005|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

One's fondness for the big-screen Dukes of Hazzard will depend on how many times one can be gladdened by hearing the exclamation "Yeeeeeee-haaaaaa."

That's certainly the dominant line of dialogue in this movie, a multimillion-dollar version of a bargain-basement, down-home comedy that ran on CBS from 1979 to 1985. As the rhymingly named Luke Duke, Johnny Knoxville gets to scream it 47 times, while Willie Nelson as moonshining Uncle Jesse Duke bellows it 19 times and Jessica Simpson as the buxom, short-shorted Daisy Duke squeals it 11 times. And Seann William Scott as rip-snorting Bo Duke lets loose a senses-shattering (and patience-trying) 238 times.

(Admittedly, those numbers may be off. But they sure seem right.)

The Dukes of Hazzard may mark some sort of nadir when it comes to movies made from TV shows. It's an overlong, under-thought and numbingly one-dimensional extrapolation of a TV show whose pleasures were, at best, marginal. See it at your own peril.

Knoxville and Scott are those good-old-boy Duke cousins, who live to bedevil the local authorities, deliver moonshine for their Uncle Jesse (who perhaps has not heard that Prohibition ended seven decades ago) and race their beloved red car, the General Lee (can't miss it; look for the one with a Confederate flag on the roof and a horn that plays "Dixie"). Sure, they get into a lot of trouble, but it's rarely anything a little moxie and a lot of yeeeeee-haaaaaas won't solve.

On those rare occasions when that doesn't work, there's always cousin Daisy Duke to come to the rescue. Played by Simpson in short pants (though not as short as those worn by the original Daisy, Catherine Bach, who still managed to come across as more wholesome than anything in this film) and cleavage-enhancing tops, Daisy's main function is to flaunt her womanly charms and distract the town's hapless males just long enough for the Duke boys to make their escape and start yelling again.

I guess there's some sort of plot to The Dukes of Hazzard, though it's hard to tell. It has something to do with town powerbroker Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds, who somehow doesn't seem in on the joke) and his plans to strip-mine poor Hazzard, Ga. Luke and Bo are against it, of course, but the only way to stop it is to attract a crowd to the local courthouse for a hearing - which could be tough, since the hearing is scheduled for the very day of a big road race that everyone in town is just dying to see. (Will the nefariousness of that evil Boss Hogg never end?)

To say more would be both pointless and deceiving, since it would suggest that the people who made this movie actually cared what happens in it. I mean, with all that rebel-yelling going on, why worry about anything else?

To be fair, there are a few attempts at updating the Dukes, like injecting some political humor ("You're so dumb," one character says to another, "you couldn't win an election if your brother were the governor") and having a posse of African-Americans surround the car on the streets of Georgia and question the Dukes about their choice of roof ornamentation. Alone in the entire film, that scene threatens to give Dukes something of an edge, maybe inject a little comedy that doesn't depend on hooting and hollering. But director Jay Chandrasekhar and writer John O'Brien quickly catch themselves and end the scene before the rest of the movie gets any ideas.

The cast? Knoxville is plenty spirited; Simpson has little trouble showing off her legs and bust; Nelson is reduced to cracking lame dirty jokes (at least he and Knoxville don't seem to be pretending to have a good time); and Scott still thinks he's playing Stifler in the American Pie films. The best performance in the film is by the General Lee, even though its best stuff is saved for the outtakes that roll during the closing credits.

If all this sounds like a good time, then by all means, yeeeee-haaaa yourself to the nearest multiplex as quickly as possible.

The Dukes of Hazzard

Starring Johnny Knoxville, Seann William Scott, Jessica Simpson

Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar

Rated PG-13 (sexual content, crude and drug-related humor, language and comic action violence)

Released by Warner Bros.

Time 106 minutes

Sun Score * (one star)

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