The Dukes of Hazzard
directed by Jay Chandrasekhar
(Warner Brothers, 2005)

There would be those who might say filmmakers didn't have a lot to work with when they opted to make a modern, big-screen version of the hit TV series, The Dukes of Hazzard. But, while the episodes from the late 1970s and '80s run together in a mental collage of car chases, car wrecks, "wahoos" and Catherine Bach's well-tanned legs, I can certainly remember that I, as a young, unsophisticated teenage boy, was entertained.

So it was with a certain sick fascination, mixed with groaning resignation, that I decided to give the 2005 movie a try. I really need to resist these impulses.

Believe it or not, Hollywood took a TV series with little substance and managed to give it less. At the same time, they pushed every trait of the show's familiar characters to an unpleasant extreme. Thus, cousins Bo and Luke Duke are dumber. Cousin Daisy is sluttier. Uncle Jesse is cruder. The bad guys are more rotten, lacking the screwball villain mentality that once made them fun to watch.

Is it fair to compare the movie to the series? Well, sure. When viewing a remake, it's perfectly acceptable to consider it in light of its source material.

The movie of course focuses on the obvious: car chases, car wrecks and wahoos. Jessica Simpson, now filling out the classic Daisy Duke shorts, focuses more on boobs than legs; while Bach's Daisy showed signs of true affection for those she manipulated with her good looks, Simpson's seems colder, more distant -- although she seems to have a slightly inappropriate relationship with her Uncle Jesse.

As for Jesse, TV's good-natured patriarch Denver Pyle has been replaced with country crooner Willie Nelson, and Jesse has transformed from being a wise and kindly adviser to a booze-swilling, pot-smoking, bitter and lecherous old grouch. As his nemesis, Boss Hogg, Sorrell Booke's jolly sort of evil has been replaced by Burt Reynolds' aloofness. The Hazzard County Police are as incompetent as ever, but the humor of James Best's Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane has turned to the bland hulk of M.C. Gainey.

And that brings us to the Duke boys themselves, Bo (Seann William Scott) and Luke (Johnny Knoxville). While they may have more big-screen charisma than the series' John Schneider and Tom Wopat, they certainly don't give the same appearance of intellect. While the Dukes once fought the law out of necessity, they now do it simply for fun. Vandalism is a sport. They have no hesitation against using potentially lethal force against the police.

Aw, face it. This film that wants us to believe that two hicks can walk into numerous bedrooms in a college girls' dormitory without knocking and find dozens of cheerfully topless and shameless coeds to play with in each; with a movie like that, it's just plain foolishness to look for reason or quality.

At least they had the good sense to realize that driving a car emblazoned with the name General Lee and a Confederate flag into downtown Atlanta is not going to win many friends.

by Tom Knapp
13 January 2007

Buy the movie from

(Or give Season One of the TV series a try.)