The light-hearted appeal is dampened by frequent cringe-inducing moments, but the film is far more watchable than a number of similar remakes.
Welcome to Hazzard County, Georgia, where the skies are clear, the air is clean, and all manner of trouble is inexplicably drawn to a place neither big enough for city nor town. A couple of good ol’ boys (Sean William Scott and Johnny Knoxville) must try to save their family farm from a greedy Hogg (Burt Reynolds) with the help of their Uncle Jesse (Willie Nelson), cousin Daisy (Jessica Simpson), and all kinds of other crazy characters, and they’ll smash up as many cars and destroy as much property as they can while doing it.
For anyone ever sucked into this throwaway little story and setting, Hazzard County is both a familiar and comfortable place. Unfortunately, the script takes its cues more from the movie remake of Starsky & Hutch rather than from the movie remake of Charlie’s Angels. Instead of a laugh-out-loud comedy with an edge, we’re left with a barely-entertaining light action adventure with glimpses of the fun that could have been had.
These glimmers of hope (as well as a few choice outtakes during the credits) hint at the film that could have been. A clear example of this was the explanation for (and subsequent discovery of) the Confederate flag painted across the top of the infamous orange-painted, souped-up Dodge Charger called the General Lee. While the boys inside look confused (they picked up the car at night), passers by on a Georgia freeway shout every possible comment imaginable before the Dukes realize something’s very wrong. There’s even a moment of quiet revelation where Boss Hogg relents that every time a plan goes wrong, it’s because his deputy always spills the beans. These moments of logical clarity colliding with the real world would have been funnier throughout, but they don’t happen often enough to keep the rest of the film from lumbering like a dinosaur in a tar pit.
While trying to pull off a modern day Dukes of Hazzard, the script never provides explanation for why the setting is the way it is (another missed opportunity: state road crews are paving Uncle Jesse’s road!) CB radios in the world of cellphones? Strip mining in the age of environmentalists? The world of the film flipflops between the culturally-isolated Hazzard county (although only the main characters of the film seem to fit the “country bumpkin” profile) and the real world, changing to serve the current moment in the film with no explanation as to why. Weren’t the Duke boys a lot smarter in the television show?
The good news is that Dukes is better than Starsky & Hutch, but not by much. With Uncle Willie sleepwalking (and sleepsmoking) through his part and “Daisy” Simpson doing little more than providing eye candy, the film doesn’t seem to set its sights any higher than this. The studio got exactly what they asked for if that was the intent, but the trailer promised a lot more (like the missing scene with Linda Carter’s biscuits… where’d THAT go?)
(a one and a half skull recommendation out of four)