Johnny Knoxville as Luke Duke
Seann William Scott as Bo Duke
Jessica Simpson as Daisy Duke
Burt Reynolds as Boss Hogg
M.C. Gainey as Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane
Willie Nelson as Uncle Jesse
David Koechner as Cooter
Lynda Carter as Pauline
Michael Weston as Deputy Enos Strate
Kevin Heffernan as Sheev
James Roday as Bill Prickett
Nikki Griffin as Katie Johnson
Jacqui Maxwell as Annette
Joe Don Baker as Governor Jim Applewhite
Luke (Johnny Knoxville) and Bo (Seann William Scott) Duke just want to drive around in their suped up Dodge Charger – the General Lee – and occasionally help out with their Uncle Jesse (Willie Nelson) and cousin Daisy’s (Jessica Simpson) moonshining operation, while thumbing their nose at the law – Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds) and Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane (M.C. Gainey). But when Boss Hogg takes Uncle Jesse’s farm as part of a plot to strip-mine Hazzard county, the Duke’s are the only ones who can stop him.
The Dukes of Hazzard is so liberal an adaptation of the original show, that it’s almost not really an adaptation at all. I’ll confess up front to never really being a fan of the show. I don’t dislike it, but I don’t like it either – it never really did anything for me. But the film version, except for the frequent and well-executed car chases, it’s The Dukes of Hazzard in name only.
Which would be fine if it were entertaining in and of itself, but it’s not. It has a tendency to make fun of the original, which was itself intentionally campy to begin with, resulting in something that is extraordinarily over-the-top, but unfortunately not very funny. And because it’s an adaptation, it’s saddled with a lot of characters (like Willie Nelson’s Uncle Jesse, who exists only to tell off color jokes, which he does with aplomb) who are only there because they were in the show, but have nothing to do and who’s presence slow the film considerably.
Knoxville and Scott put their own individual comedic sensibilities into the Dukes – and Scott in particular pulls of his manic lunacy with a certain degree of charm – and it doesn’t fit at all well, though there is some entertainment value in watching Knoxville playing the straight man. They’re just some good ol’ boys never meaning no harm, or at least that’s what the song said, but these Dukes are mischievous, slightly malicious morons who hit each other in the face with an Atlanta phone book when they lose a bet. Luke’s main goal in life seems to be to sleep with every girl he sees, and Bo wants to sleep with the General Lee, which he loves more than life itself and often talks to. They only really work as characters – both in and of themselves and as versions of the originals – when they’re being chased in the General Lee.
And that’s the big problem. The Dukes of Hazzard only works during the chase sequences, and just sits there the rest of the time. There are some moments of inspired visual lunacy courtesy of director Jay Chandrasekhar (Super Troopers, Club Dread), and he puts the car chase sequences together with a pleasingly bone crunching intensity. But that’s it. Much of the situational humor it tries to go for – Bo and Luke impersonating a pair of Japanese industrialists, the reaction to the General Lee and its Confederate Flag roof in Atlanta – tends to be funny in conception, but dull in execution.
The rest of the cast are fine, but they don’t have anything really to do except play out a few of the well-known character ticks from the show. Most of the film is given over to Bo and Luke’s antics, and everyone else just comes and goes, sometimes arbitrarily. Daisy prances in cut offs for Enos (Michael Weston) to get the boys out of trouble, Cooter (David Koechner) lends them a hand when they get stuck, and on and on and on. Occasionally they try and turn the shtick on its head and go against the grain, but not much.
The villains get the best updating of the bunch. Reynolds’ Boss Hogg is nicely smarmy, and no where near as over the top as the original, and the turn works quite well – it’s unfortunate he’s not in more of the film. And his bumbling attack dog, Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane, has been rethought as a character of genuine menace. Together they make a decent foil for the Dukes.
Chandrasekhar’s fellow Broken Lizard member Kevin Heffernan does another fine comedic turn as crazy bait shop owner Sheev, who turns armadillos into helmets to block out CIA brain wave scanners. Heffernan is excellent at under- and over-stated insanity, and he puts both on to fine display. It’s unfortunate that his scenes work in all the ways that the rest of the movie tries, and fails, to do. As a bonus, Broken Lizard fans can try and spot all of the other Lizards, who each make cameos in the film.
The Dukes of Hazzard isn’t very true to its source material, and it’s not particularly funny in and of itself either, but the frequent car chases are worthwhile, and if you like the Knoxville/Scott brand of humor, you will enjoy it.
The Dukes of Hazzard is rated PG-13 for sexual content, crude and drug-related humor, language and comic action violence.