Dir: Jay Chandrasekhar.US. 2005. 102 mins.
Itwould have been easy just to make fun of The Dukes of Hazzard, the supremely corny early eighties US TV seriesabout Bo and Luke Duke, two young buck good ole boys from deep in the heart ofGeorgia. Surprisingly though, this Warner Bros/Village Roadshow big screenversion of the action comedy series takes a fairly straightforward approach tothe original material, mostly preserving rather than trying to spoof the genialappeal that made the show a hit in the States and some overseas markets. Whatthe movie most notably adds to the original formula is Jessica Simpson, the popsensation who makes her feature film debut playing Bo and Luke's sexy cousinDaisy.
Simpson's presence -- andthe inclusion of her US chart hit "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" on thesoundtrack - will be a big asset when Warner opens the movie in the US thisweekend. If it can reach both younger moviegoers and older middle Americans(the audience that has made the kind of stock car racing featured in the filmone of the country's most popular sports), The Dukes of Hazzard could produce significant domestic box officereturns.
In international markets(Village Roadshow handles select territories and Warner the rest of the world)box office performances will depend in part on familiarity with the originalseries. With a less well known cast than recent vintage TV adaptations such as Starsky& Hutch and Charlie's Angels, the film won't be an easy sell, though tie-ins withlocal launches of Simpson's song (and its raunchy video) could be used to boostpre-release interest.
The TV series, which debutedin 1979 and ran for six seasons in the US, was adapted for the big screen byJohn O'Brien, one of the writers of the 2004 Starsky & Hutch movie. But there's less ironic distance here thanthere was in that film, or even in the two Charlie's Angels movies.
The main elements of theseries are transplanted to the movie in tact. Bo (Scott, from the American Piefilms) and Luke (Knoxville, best known for his Jackass reality series andmovie) still speed around rural Hazzard County in their beloved muscle car theGeneral Lee, delivering moonshine for their Uncle Jessie (Nelson).
They're still hounded atevery turn by Sheriff Roscoe P Coltrane (M C Gainey), lackey to corrupt Countycommissioner Boss Hogg (Reynolds). And they're still backed up by cousin Daisy(Simpson), whose secret weapon is her pair of skimpy denim hot pants.
The tone of the movie is alittle raunchier and more comical than the TV show's, but director JayChandrasekhar (who previously made spoofs Club Dread and Super Troopers with his Broken Lizard comedy group) keeps the mixof elements basically the same: there are a handful of car chases, the oddcartoonish fistfight, some attractive girls, some down home humour and a threadof mild intrigue involving Boss Hogg's latest scheme to enrich himself at theexpense of the Hazzard populace.
The movie does grudginglyacknowledge that times and attitudes have changed since the TV show had its run- on a trip to Atlanta the boys get heckled for the now un-PC Confederate flagpainted on the roof of the General Lee.
And it does show a fewflashes of real wit. When the boys tangle with a group of inner city blackyouths they politely explain that they prefer to be known as"Appalachian-Americans" rather than "hillbillies." And whenSimpson seems set to interrupt the action with her hit song (which eventuallyplays over the closing credits) the film cheekily stops her in her tracks.
For the most part, though,Chandrasekhar and O'Brien appear to be aiming simply for a workable 21stcentury version of the dopey but still likeable original show. And in that theysucceed.
They are helped by a castthat makes up in breadth of appeal what it lacks in star power. MTV generationnames Knoxville and Scott find the right mix of wildness and cuteness as Lukeand Bo; Simpson looks hot and handles her limited acting duties reasonablywell; and Reynolds (whose 1977 hit Smokey and the Bandit undoubtedly helped get The Dukes of Hazzard on air) is clearly enjoying himself.
Country music legend Nelson- who also performs the original Dukes theme song in the film - seems a bitless committed, but his presence should help attract yet another demographic tothe film.
Warner Bros Pictures,Village Roadshow Pictures.
Warner Bros, VillageRoadshow (select intl territories).
Eric McLeod, Dana Goldberg,Bruce Berman.
Director of Photography
Jon Gary Steele.
Lee Haxall, Myron Kerstein.
Seann William Scott
Joe Don Baker