Image courtesy of www.impawards.com
Johnny Knoxville……….Luke Duke
Seann William Scott……….Bo Duke
Alice Greczyn……….Laurie Pullman
Michael Weston……….Deputy Enos Strate
Michael Roof……….Dil Driscoll
Jessica Simpson………..Daisy Duke
M.C. Gainey……….Rosco P. Coltrane
Burt Reynolds……….Boss Hogg
Willie Nelson……….Uncle Jesse
When The Dukes of Hazzard first came on to the airwaves it somehow managed to be a major hit for CBS. CBS didn’t understand why but in the next 6 years The Dukes of Hazzard became a major draw for the network. With a plot that stayed relatively the same from show to show, why it became a major hit befuddled television executives for years. But it was pretty simple in retrospect: it appealed to 13 year old boys.
The Duke boys were rebellious, anti-authority types who played by their own set of rules in a fun-loving manner with their confederate colored car, the General Lee. Throw in Daisy Duke, the scantily clad (for the time) sex symbol, a great villain and representation of authority in Boss Hogg and car chases and jumps involving the General Lee and you have the ingredients for every young boy’s fantasy. Luke and Bo Duke were the consummate heroes for any young boy; being a teenager is a time of rebellion against your parents, society, etc, and the Duke boys were the kind of actualized fantasy that a young adult can support.
There’s a reason why supporting the underdog raging against the machine is always en vogue; giving authority figures the middle finger and breaking their rules is a key in establishing your own persona. No one wants to be the figure of authority; it’s almost a romantic notion to thumb your nose at the establishment and do what you want, not what “the man” wants you to do. And the Duke boys were then and are now used to breaking the rules and as such need actors comfortable in those sorts of roles. Enter Johnny Knoxville and Sean William Scott.
Knoxville made his name as one of the stars of MTV’s Jackass by offending the sensible delicacies of many parents via absurd stunts. Scott is best known for being the obnoxious nitwit star of the American Pie trilogy. Neither have any fantasies of what they are as actors; they are a pair of sidekicks/character actors who thrive in comedies. Both men are settled in the niche of being the wisecracking sidekick. As the title characters of The Dukes of Hazzard, Knoxville and Scott star as a pair of country boys who antagonize the local sheriff’s office as well as local political aficionado Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds). They are joined in their rebellious ways by their cousin Daisy (Jessica Simpson) and Uncle Jessie (Willie Nelson), the heroine and wise mentor in this allusion of archetypes, as well as their mechanic buddy Cooter (David Koechner). The Dukes of Hazzard the same sort of plot that populated the television show during its run.
Bo (Scott) and Luke (Knoxville) run moonshine for their uncle, regularly upsetting the natural balance of law and order. When Hogg wants to try and make a land-grab in order to make his fortune, it’s up to the Duke clan to stop him and his nefarious plan. Buoyed by remakes of Southern Rock classics, The Dukes of Hazzard is a nice concept on paper that in reality hits enough road bumps to derail what starts out as a promising comedy.
And from the very beginning Scott and Knoxville have a solid chemistry together. Since both are never accustomed to being the centerpiece of any movie, it allows them to play off each other in the spotlight. They have a sense of comedic timing together that only comes from having to supply the laughs with a muscle bound sidekick. And since both have been the comedic element next to an action superstar, in both cases being WWE superstar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Scott in The Rundown and Knoxville in the remake of Walking Tall), they both know they have a certain amount they can do. The spotlight isn’t being hogged by either man. Too bad the source material isn’t up to snuff.
In what should be a fun summer comedy, The Dukes of Hazzard features much more raunchiness than is required. There is a certain subtlety to make a comedy about hillbillies work and in this case lots of ill-fated at best and unnecessary at worst jokes about drug use and four-letter words are used in that place. There are moments when the movie has some quality laughs, but those are few and far between. While Scott and Knoxville are able to turn plenty of horrible gags into solid laughs, it’s the rest of the cast that isn’t quite up to snuff.
Reynolds and Nelson stand out the most. Reynolds appears to sleepwalk through most of the movie, as a man who is known for having great comedic timing is clearly outshined by men whose most clever antics have involved being hit with something in the groin. Nelson is a virtual non-factor, as he has little screen time to go along with the lack of quality material.
The star of the movie seems to be Jessica Simpson. Stuck in a rather thankless job as Daisy, Jay Chandrasekhar seems to have a sense that the more she talks the more out of place she is. She has a strong screen presence and, while stuck with a ridiculous accent, manages to have some memorable moments prancing around in various outfits.