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Ever see a move go up in quality? Such is the case with these two Dukes of Hazzard films. The TV movies that reunited the cast were dumb when they originally aired. If you made the mistake of seeing Jessica Simpson’s Dukes of Hazzard and Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning, the films on Dukes of Hazzard: Two Movie Collection are Oscar worthy. Or at least they’re Golden Globe nominees. But they certainly weren’t Razzie winners like Johnny Knoxville’s clunker.
The Dukes of Hazzard: Reunion! (1997 – 90 minutes) brings back a majority of the cast for one more adventure in the town that Boss Hogg bilked. Unfortunately Sorrell Booke passed away in 1994 so he’s only represented by an office portrait. As a sign of respect, they didn’t stick a tubby actor into a white suit to play him or drag back Jeff Altman to revive Hughie Hogg. Instead Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane (James Best) assumed Hogg’s business dealings while being the law. Also gone from the show is Waylon Jennings as the narrator. He wasn’t dead so there must have been a creative issue. They even came up with a new theme song. Country star Don Williams (W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings) does the honors of telling us what the Dukes have done in the 12 years since the show went off the air. Bo (John Schneider) is a NASCAR driver. Luke (Tom Wopat) is a smoke jumper for forest fires. Daisy (Catherine Bach) is finishing up an environmental degree at Duke University. Cooter (Ben Jones) is a Congressman. Jones was really a Congressman for four years. Only Uncle Jesse (Denver Pyle) stayed in Hazzard county and he’s paying for it.
A corporation run by Stella Stevens (Girls! Girls! Girls!) wants to turn the swamp into a theme park. Uncle Jesse won’t sell his land to create an access road. Boss Rosco needs this project to come through. He’s in the pocket of big business and against the Dukes. All the characters come back to Hazzard for the homecoming week. Stevens plots a race between Bo and Luke in the General Lee versus her driver. If she wins, she’ll get the land. And if she loses….she doesn’t plan on losing. It’s the classic “save the farm” script. Enos (Sonny Shroyer) returns from being a detective in L.A. to track down Daisy’s heart. In a strange twist, martial arts action queen Cynthia Rothrock is in a Tough Persons Competition.
Reunion! does it’s job of bringing back the cast. It maintains the tone of the show. They don’t try to get too smart for the crowd by injecting irony into the script. There’s plenty of brawling and car chasing. They do cheat by using old stunt footage for the car wrecks. But it’s not like they had the same budget as the lame Dukes of Hazzard movie with Simpson being out acted by the General Lee.
The Dukes of Hazzard: Hazzard in Hollywood (2000 – 88 minutes) takes the crew to Tinseltown. A shady ex-Hazzard resident declares he can get enough money to finish the hospital if the town lets him sell the audiotapes of their great outdoor shows. He’ll make a fortune with live tapes of Willie Nelson and Toby Keith. The town goes for the deal. Uncle Jesse has passed away (Pyle died months after Reunion! aired) so nobody sniffs out this guy as shady. Luke, Bo, Daisy, Cooter, Rosco and Deputy Cletus (Rick Hurst) hit the road West with the tapes. However they find themselves in a middle of a scheme when the record company executives turn out to be Russian mobsters. Can Bo and Luke keep the town from being victims of a bootleg operation?
Bob Clark (Porkys and A Christmas Story) contributes to the script. This probably explains the comic moments that seem like cast off jokes from Baby Geniuses. Enos shows up in his official capacity as a detective for the LAPD. While this movie isn’t as heartwarming as Reunion!, it’s better than The Beginning.
Dukes of Hazzard: Two Movie Collection is the crowning moment for fans that have all seven of the season boxsets on the mantle. Unlike those two recent impostor films, Reunion! and Hazzard In Hollywood recapture the mindless fun that was in the series. Sure the Duke boys are a little older, but they’re not that much wiser. These were the last great rides of the General Lee.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are clean. The details are a little soft so you don’t go wrinkle hunting around Daisy’s eyes. The audio is in Dolby Digital Surround Stereo. The subtitles are in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
Reunion! and Hazzard in Hollywood prove that Jessica Simpson had no business playing Daisy Duke. It’s great to see Luke, Bo and Daisy getting two final chances to have fun in the General Lee. Now if only someone will make a Coy and Vance reunion film. These films are the perfect finales for a good ol’ show.
Warner Home Video presents Dukes of Hazzard: Two Movie Collection. Starring John Schneider, Tom Wopat, Catherine Bach and Denver Pyle. Boxset Contents: 2 films on 2 DVDs. Released on DVD: June 10, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.