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The Dukes of Hazzard

Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar

August 5, 2005  |  12:00am
The Dukes of Hazzard

As blockbusters go, The Dukes of Hazzard makes no grand claims at subtlety. Vaguely offensive stereotypes squirt like Texas oil—farmers are brainless, women are brutish or slutty, black teens are thugs in giant jerseys. Even the Dukes’ precious South is rendered in broad, cartoonish strokes: cousins Bo and Luke Duke (American Pie’s Seann William-Scott and Jackass’s Johnny Knoxville) drift in and out of anonymous hillbilly accents, shoot flaming arrows, chug moonshine out of mason jars, and holler “Yee-haw!” over the proud Dixie wails of—who else?—the Allman Brothers Band. Much like the TV show from which it was adapted, The Dukes of Hazzard celebrates excess, teeming with boobs, guffaws and car doors that don’t open.

Ben Jones, who starred as the original Cooter, dubbed the film a “sleazy insult” on his website, but the movie does its goofy best to pay proper homage to its family-friendly origins (dozens of cars go down in flames, but not a single body is dragged from the rubble). As a feature film, The Dukes of Hazzard lacks many things, but earnestness isn’t one of them—the small-screen version may have been hipster-commodified into kitsch gold, but let’s not pretend its big-screen counterpart is any different at heart. Neither aspires to high art, and whether it’s 1979 or 2005, Bo and Luke Duke will still spend all day screaming at each other from the front seat of a speeding, bright-orange Dodge Charger.

The chase scenes, starring scene-snatching hotrod the General Lee, are appropriately captivating, and Scott and Knoxville boast enough doofus chemistry to make the Dukes a sympathetic pair, provided you can swallow 100 minutes of being-dumb-is-funny schtick. As the pin-up Daisy Duke, Jessica Simpson is all shorts and teeth, tossing hollow pageant-grins and wiggling her bits—after three seasons of reality TV, Simpson is a perennially self-aware star, and flirty, wide-eyed self-ridicule has always been a big part of her routine. This works for Daisy, who’s perpetually bemused by the ease with which she crumples men, but Simpson lets herself be gawked at rather than watched—which is a bummer, because Daisy Duke is easily the most dynamic character in The Dukes of Hazzard. At her best, Daisy could be patronizing and sharp, but Simpson merely settles on shiny and tan. Meanwhile, Burt Reynolds is perfectly ridiculous as head-honcho Boss Hogg, shuffling awkwardly in a white suit and bolo, while Willie Nelson is heartbreaking as the overall-sporting, pitchfork-clutching Uncle Jesse. Director Jay Chandrasekhar (Super Troopers, Club Dread) commands his caricatures with an odd grace, but, unsurprisingly, never transcends the loud-and-stupid baseline.

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