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The Dukes of Hazzard

***
2005

‘…the brand promises hot cars, country music, corn-poke humour and pretty girls and that’s what Chandrasekhar delivers…’

On, reflection, maybe I am a contrarian; I’ve yet to read a positive word about Jay Chandrasekhar’s reboot of the old 1970’s tv show, and yet it works pretty well for me as a Saturday night movie. In a reverse of the current Paddington stand-off, I guess it’s purists and defenders of the original US tv show that can’t stand to see their favourite characters and scenarios modernised. I barely remember anything that was good about the original version beyond stunts, and am happy to tackle this text as a stand-alone movie. The brand promises hot cars, country music, corn-poke humour and pretty girls and that’s what Chandrasekhar delivers, plus the Super Troopers comedy that made his name as a director.

With most of the original cast refusing to come back for cameos citing the low quality of the script, the film becomes a greatest hits package themed around moonshine running and breaking the law. Willie Nelson is patriarch Uncle Jesse, who struggles to dampen down the high spirits of the Duke Boys (Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville) and their thrillbilly ways. Wonder-woman Lynda Carter mans the stove, while cousin Daisy (Jessica Simpson) bends the local cops around her little finger. The bad guys, looking to strip-mine Hazzard County with the law in their pocket, are led by moon-shiner turned politico Boss Hogg, played by Burt Reynolds.

Most of these elements are probably an upgrade on the original cast, and Chandrasekhar also doubles-down on the key element here; the car, which is to say the bright orange General Lee. The stunt-work here is pretty fantastic, including an eternal drift around a circular New Orleans location, doubling for Atlanta, that pops like a champagne cork when the General Lee flies off a ramp and drops onto a busy freeway. The film is sharp on the road, and pretty much all the characters take a backseat to stunt-work, again, no bad thing.

And at least The Dukes of Hazzard has the stones to update the material; Daisy’s attempts to woo the cops are thwarted by one of them new-fangled lady policemen, while the Hazzard boys and their Confederate flag attract the unwanted attentions of an urban-street gang. The attitude to sex and race is decidedly not-PC, but then again, no-one ever suggested that the Hazzard boys are role-models. Rather than preserve the memory of the tv show that was hard to love in the first place, this is a bright, aggressively silly confection about nothing; the car-stunts and the outtakes are the thing, and they don’t disappoint.

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  1. I think I watched a couple of the tv episodes and just had to stop because it was so hackneyed.

    I wonder what kind of reception this would have recieved if the director had made this a standalone movie instead of relying on the bones of an already existing franchise. To me, that’s the issue. He was a lazy git, just like most other hollywood directors, and it finally caught up to him.

    I’d like to think this ended his career but knowing h-wood, I know it didn’t….

    • I don’t think a warmes over slice of tripe did much for anyone’s careers. While I commend the car stunts here, there’s little else to savour. I guess I’m not the target audience, but I’m not sure who is. Plenty of lazy gits around…

    • We’re an army of two! I’ve seen this several times and always replay that car chase a couple of times. The amped up sex isn’t a great look, but I liked the moonshine origins. And one great action sequence is one more than most movies got, so we’re winning already.

  2. The Contrarian Strikes Again. You could rename your blog. That’s a hot moniker if ever there was one. Bit sexist those Dukes. Should it not have been the Dukes and Duchess of Hazzard? Did any of them every play football as a matter of interest?

  3. This popular mess of “southern culture” is too appealing to a certain American contingent. I would have been impressed if they’d switched to black or Latin actors for the Dukes. 🙂 In recent times these fun tropes of “outlaw” and “family tradition” have become unfortunate signals of a certain stubborn dark and exclusive outlook. Too many folks are too married to their indignation and choice of identity. As a result, we haven’t been this ready to tear the nation apart since Nixon and Vietnam. Trump has been a big part of the necessary push-back.
    The Dukes of Hazzard are a quaint little fantasy that today is a package of outrageous triggers that we could still play with just 15 years ago. No more.
    On the other hand, car stunts and pretty girls!

    • My feeling is that somehow the net has caused people to be married to their professed tribal group. Totally agree with your assessment, and to me, it’s a package of outrageous triggers that should be recast, rethought and endlessly played with until minds are blown. Anyway, I came for the cars…

      • The net definitely provides a couple of things, not the least of which is a sort of bold anonymity, and a sad equalizing of each and every voice- we no longer seem to be interested in quality or qualification, creative brashness has replaced it all. It’s an anarchy that grows each day with masses of ever more naive users seeking a thrill.
        The tribalism is something that seems to ebb and wane with perceived threats to the stasis. There will be a new punk rock to unhinge the paralysis of this fear, but people need to feel safe in order to play with their identities – and they don’t feel safe right now.

        • I hope that punk rock movement comes soon, things feel like they are slowing down to sludge creatively, and the desire to be liked and not cause offence is suffocating…totally agree with your POV!

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