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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > The Dukes Of Hazzard – Unrated (HD-DVD/2005)

The Dukes Of Hazzard – Unrated (HD-DVD/2005)


Picture: B     Sound: B     Extras: C     Film: C-



Why remake motion pictures that worked?  Why remake TV series that barely did?  The answer is really the same for both; name recognition.  When The Dukes Of Hazzard debuted on TV and became a hit, critics hated it, but it was a money machine.  It even survived the temporary loss of its leads, which says how much of a formula show it was.  That should have been simple enough to follow, but Jay Chandrasekhar’s 2005 feature film is so bad, it actually makes the series look somewhat clever.


Part of the problem is simply the casting.  Tom Wopat, John Schneider, Catherine Bach and the late, great Sorrell Booke as Boss Hogg had chemistry and the show at least had enough of a spirit of fun and infantile outrageousness that it at least had some degree of iota of why viewers might tune in each week.  Even after a TV movie reunion with the original cast, that might have been enough a decade or so ago, but with Hollywood setting its idea washing machine to “high recycle” mode, here came the new film version.


Instead of casting two new unknowns, producers played it too safe by casting the overly obvious choices of Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott as the new Duke Boys.  Even worse, already yesterday’s news Jessica Simpson became a Daisy Duke so plastic that the old Mego 8” action figure would have been a better casting choice.  Though Danny DeVito would have been obvious for Boss Hogg, Burt Reynolds was chosen instead and that was a great opportunity wasted.  Add Willie Nelson as a hardly-seen Uncle Jessie, Linda Carter grossly-underused as his old friend and Joe Don Baker also shockingly wasted and you have a film that is as clueless about the series as it is about the 1970s criminal/bandit car chase cycle that inspired the series in the first place.


Scott and Knoxville do try in some scenes, but the screenplay by John O’Brien (based on a story he co-wrote with Jonathan L. Davis) is so politically correct and overly smooth that the South as presented in the film makes the great amusement park Dollywood look like The Smithsonian Institute!  Furthermore, the makers think by having a bunch of duplicates of the beloved General Lee sports car front and center as a co-star, we will not notice that the film is miles away from the best of those car chase films from the 1970s.  The ultimate example of how this film is pretentious, cannot get on with it and is contrived beyond belief is the narrative-stopping (and I use the term “narrative” very loosely) moment where people start insulting the Dukes about the Confederate Flag on their car’s hood.


Though some extreme Left-wingers would try to accuse the original series of paving the way for the Reagan-era, the Dukes were never racist and the show never even implicitly feigned anything sinister.  In fact, the show was slightly Left-of-center in the subversive antics of the boys against authority in the tradition of the 1970s film cycle noted, al the way to Reynolds most popular work.  Like the Republicans in the 1980s, this film is really interested in negating that Southern Liberal legacy (read Jimmy Carter, for instance) and the truly great Country Music that was still being made by the likes of Mr. Nelson before that music genre was warped beyond recognition.  That the creators did not really know what to do with Nelson, Reynolds and the original characters proves that they were the worst possible choices.  Skip this bomb.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image is as plastic as it looked in 35mm film, as shot by cinematographer Lawrence Sher.  Though a little better than a standard DVD, this is nothing to write home about.  As compared to the original series, which looked natural when even restricted to sets, this film has more location work that somehow looks phonier.  However, that just furthers the prefabricated, recycled experience the film offers.  The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix is obviously from a newer recording, but the sound design is surprisingly unimpressive unless cars are speeding or wrecking.  Dialogue sometimes sounds more forward than it should to boot.


Extras include additional scenes and gag reels split between PG-13 and “unrated” versions, the somewhat gimmicky “in-movie experience” function that takes us inside the film as if it were an audio commentary with video accompaniment, six dull featurettes, the original theatrical trailer and the Music Video for Simpson’s desecration of the Nancy Sinatra classic These Boots Were Made For Walking that is so bad, I need to watch Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (reviewed elsewhere on this site) to wash it out of my mind.  Fans should stick with the series, while Warner is doing a straight-to-disc sequel with a new cast, which makes one wonder if that could actually be an improvement.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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