|Dukes of Hazzard, The|
|HD DVD Action-Adventure|
|Written by Mel Odom|
|Tuesday, 01 August 2006|
From 1979 to 1985, “The Dukes of Hazzard” was televised every week, detailing the over-the-top and sometimes silly adventures of Bo and Luke Duke, along with their Uncle Jesse and cousin Daisy, as they fought against the machinations of Boss Hogg and Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane to rip off the hardscrabble citizens of Hazzard County. The series might have started out as serious fare, with tongue in cheek, but quickly migrated to slapstick humor and commentary by the narrator, Waylon Jennings. Jennings even made fun of the situation in the theme song, saying his momma always wondered why they kept showing his hands but not his face on TV.
The series premise was that Bo and Luke had once run moonshine that their Uncle Jesse made; he had once been a runner too. But Bo and Luke had been put on probation by the judge for running Uncle Jesse’s shine. Uncle Jesse had a war going on with the other moonshiners, including Boss Hogg, because Uncle Jesse believed in putting out quality hooch. Tom Wopat, John Schneider, Denver Pyle and Catharine Bach starred as the Dukes.
Most people don’t realize that Gy Waldron, the man who created “The Dukes of Hazzard”, actually took characters and situations from an earlier movie to create the television series. Uncle Jesse, Cooter and even Waylon Jennings as the narrator came from a movie called “Moonrunners”.
With the remakes Hollywood seems committed to these days, it seemed that they had to reach “The Dukes of Hazzard” eventually. With Seann William Scott in the driver’s seat as Bo, Johnny Knoxville as Luke, Willie Nelson as Uncle Jesse, Jessica Simpson as Daisy, and Burt Reynolds as J. D. “Boss” Hogg, they certainly loaded up on enough cross-sectional starpower to pull the action, Jackass, sexy music and country music rebel good ol’ boys out of the woods and head ‘em into the theaters. In fact, the first go-around went around so well that they’re headed back to the theaters for a prequel (though at this point only Willie Nelson will be joining them).
HD DVD Video: With cars flying across the ground, through the air, and into each other, the HD DVD delivers crisp video mind-blowing in intensity. The real proof of the pudding is the gag reels where what really happened to the cars that went flying through the air is shown. Most ended up scattered in pieces; viewers can watch those crashes in slow motion and actually see those pieces fall off.
HD DVD AUDIO: The movie was mixed with a largely Southern Rock score that kicks ass during the action sequences. The surround sound system splits the music out, as well as the voices and the sound of the car crashes and explosions. When the subwoofer springs to life, the walls shake.
Johnny Knoxville heads up the cast in this production. As star of the wildly accepted “Jackass”, he rose in the public eye overnight. Known for his lunatic willingness to endure physical punishment, he became a hero to the extreme sports fans around the world. He wears the Luke Duke role like he was born to it, a swaggering womanizer who gets the attention of every girl in the movie at one time or another. On the set, the gag reel reveals that Knoxville was a total ham, blowing the minds of the other actors with his outrageous stunts. He and Willie Nelson evidently got along really well because their scenes together seem incredibly natural.
Seann William Scott plays well with Knoxville. Already a veteran of action movies that have paired him up with the Rock (“Rundown”) and Chow Yun-Fat (“Bulletproof Monk”), Scott takes to the film like a duck to water. He radiates a good ol’ boy intensity that is doubtless inspired by Knoxville.
The role of Daisy Duke wasn’t incredibly hard, but Jessica Simpson filled out the shorty shorts and cowboy books well. Evidently the experience inspired her to redo Nancy Sinatra’s hit “These Boots Were Made For Walkin’” in music video. The music was distinctive enough that it was used in pizza commercials.
Willie Nelson is a legend, not only as a singer, a rebel, and an outlaw, but as an actor. He’s played himself in the movies as well as handling second-banana roles to Robert Redford and Jane Fonda and starred in a few movies himself, Westerns as well as crime thrillers and romances. With Denver Pyle no longer available for the role, Willie was a natural and brings a true down-home experience to the role in well-worn overalls and boots.
Burt Reynolds has been in front of the camera for 40+ years. He’s had a roller-coaster career—rises and falls—and been a top box-office winner for years. Paired off-screen with some of the best looking leading ladies in the business (Dinah Shore, Loni Anderson, and Sally Field), Reynolds has delivered Westerns, crime stories, comedies, and serious roles (“Deliverance”). Most fans remember his work as a Southern redneck showoff in the international hit, “Smokey And The Bandit”. Although Boss Hogg might not be a step up in his career or stress his acting ability, Reynolds carries the role well. One of the best scenes in the movie is when he’s harassing Bo and Luke in the Atlanta jail and is harassed himself by a black man. Reynolds calmly offers a hundred dollars to anyone who will hit the guy and shut him up.
Jay Chandrasekhar directed the movie. He’s part of the Broken Lizard Comedy team, and even gave Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske parts in the movie. The Broken Lizards put out “Super Troopers” and “Club Dread”.
The strength and the weakness of “The Dukes of Hazzard” is that the plot is just like one of those featured in the television series. The movie starts out with Luke Duke getting into trouble that the TV version would never have allowed. Luke is in an upstairs bedroom window on one of the moonshine delivers, pulling the clothes off a farmer’s daughter. He gets caught by the brother and he and Bo go tearing across the countryside with the father and brother hot on their trail.
After they lose the two men in a fender-crunching escapade that revs up the surround sound system, they arrive back at the Boar’s Nest, the bar that Boss Hogg owns. Daisy works there as a waitress. A group of NASCAR racers are in town and disparaging comments are made, which ends up with Daisy putting one of her boots at on racer’s throat.
Bo is just eaten up with the fact that NASCAR racer and Hazzard alum Billy Prickett (James Roday) has returned to Hazzard, though no one knows why he would want to race again in the local race after making it to the big time. However, one of the race guys continues to insult both Daisy and Bo, and a bar fight ensues that show how off the wall Knoxville and Scott can get.
In no time at all, the Dukes are arrested, the General Lee (the Dodge Charger they drive) is impounded, and the farm is seized because Boss Hogg has a still planted on it. The Dukes don’t know what Boss Hogg has up his sleeve, but they vow to figure it out. They relocate to the home of their relative Pauline (Lynda Carter) and start striking back.
The movie quickly progresses into something that could have easily played on the television show, and maybe even been cut down to the hour-long format. It’s nice to watch the whole move, but the plot is so lean that huge chunks of the film could have been cut out and no one would have noticed.
Once the Dukes figure out what Boss Hogg is really up to, it’s just a matter of time, car chases, explosions, one-lines, a deluge of jokes from Uncle Jesse in amidst blowing up moonshine cocktails, wrecked cars, flying cars and racing cars before they win out in the end.
Despite the slim plot line and characters that have been seen for years, “The Dukes of Hazzard” delivers a popcorn movie that’s as well done as any out there. Viewers can settle back for a few laughs, a few naked women (in the unrated version), bad language, ribald jokes and action. The soundtrack is pretty good and rocks and rolls the house when the onscreen excitement picks up.
The Special Features section is well-stocked, in both PG-13 and Unrated, but the reels tend to be similar. “Stunt Dummies Hit the Town” is completely insane and not altogether funny at times, and is probably best watched after the movie, which has one of the best selections of outtakes that’s been seen in a while. The documentaries on the General Lee, Daisy and the stunts are all worth taking a look at.
“The Dukes of Hazzard” definitely isn’t family fare, but the PG-13 version would probably do for the older crowd. Fans of Johnny Knoxville will snap this one up. The HD DVD is a good rental for an evening at home, but there’s not much to see on a second trip through.