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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
• Hazzard County Character Featurettes: "The New Dukes," "Daisy’s Dukes," "The Birth of the General Lee," "A Moment with Uncle Jesse," "Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane"
• Exclusive to the Unrated version Hazzard County Character Featurettes: "The Duke Boys in Drag" and "Meeting Dainty Hogg "
• "Duke Boys Swingin’" a music video by Cowboy Troy & John Anderson
• Movie trailer
The end of the Dukes is actually the beginning.
"Hey, I didn’t know you boys were that kind of cousins…"
Jonathan Bennett, Randy Wayne, April Scott, Christopher McDonald, Willie Nelson, Harland Williams, Joel Moore, Todd Grinnell, Adam Shulman, Sherilyn Fenn.
The story of how the Dukes became a family is told here as a prequel to the 2005 theatrical film, pretty much retconning the entire Dukes of Hazzard canon. Bo and Luke are troublesome cousins who are sent by their parents (answering a major question along the way of what happened to them) to work on their Uncle Jesse’s farm when Bo (Grizzly Park’s Wayne) is arrested for reckless driving while trying to get his license, and Luke (Bennett) is arrested for prematurely setting off fireworks to impress a girl. They get reacquainted with Jesse, who is an old moonshiner just trying to make his way in the world, and their cousin, Daisy (Scott), a shy little flower just blossoming into womanhood…and legality. Boss Hogg (McDonald) is running one of his typical schemes: to turn Hazzard into a dry county and arrest any moonshiner he catches in an attempt to corner the market himself. With Jesse opposing him, Boss threatens to foreclose on his farm. So Bo and Luke are forced to become shine runners. To do this they find a ’69 Charger at the bottom a lake and turn in into the vaunted General Lee. Meanwhile Daisy sheds her bookworm status to emerge as the smokinest thing in Hazzard thanks to her trademark short shorts. Together, the three of them try to save the farm and expose Boss’ plot.
"Hey, is that a shark down there?"
Okay, okay okay. After four season box set reviews (here, here, here), including one where I compared the TV show to the ’05 theatrical version (here), I think it’s safe to say I’m officially done with the Dukes franchise. Lived for it as a kid, had the toys, even watched the shit ’80s Dukes cartoon, the forgettable spinoff, Enos, and the two horrid TV reunion movies. The Dukes of Hazzard has nearly bled me dry my entire life and now this straight-to-(oblivion)-DVD version is here to get the last couple of drops from the ole Oliverstone. This franchise cannot possibly go on in any other form beyond the 20-year-old reruns we’re used to. Why? Because an enigmatic formula that dubiously worked for the show in a specific period in time has now failed in every attempt to bring it back – and usually failed miserably. Dukes of Hazzard worked from 1979 to 1985 and that’s it.
Thankfully, the IRS were very accommodating when Willie had to do his jailhouse scenes…
In Dukes of Hazzard – The Beginning, we see young Bo, Luke and Daisy as teenagers and just coming together to form the Duke family we’re all used to seeing. We also see the retconned genesis of the General Lee and Boss and Roscoe being their usual scheming selves. Since the ’05 theatrical version was pretty much a trainwreck, the producers had a chance to maybe set things right and get a fresh start. Did they succeed? In a word, no. First of all, the overall story is so ridiculously weak that the movie mostly feels like vignettes strung together to try to capitalize on story elements that made the show unique. A prime example of this is a segment where the Duke boys appear in drag in order to go undercover and no one, not even Roscoe recognizes them. Yeah. When the TV show was starting out, it was a fast, run-and-gun snapshot of life in the South under the heel of local corruption in the form of Boss Hogg (Sorrell Booke) and his crooked-as-a-dog’s-hind-leg Sheriff Roscoe Coltrane. Then of course as the show went along, it became more about the General Lee’s jumps and the portraying of the Duke family as cardboard thin country saints rather than real people. Hell the last season or two almost seemed like coming up with the most crazy stunts the show runners could think of and building a story around it. This prequel doesn’t even have that going for it.
Sell your soul for a piece of this. Deal, or no deal?
Willie Nelson reprises his role from the theatrical movie and he actually does a better job of things than he did in his previous appearance. That’s not saying much since he pretty much spent that movie smoking dope and cracking shitty one-liners. As for the Duke boys, in the theatrical version, they were exaggerations of Bo and Luke’s TV selves: Seann William Scott’s almost sexual obsession with the General and Johnny Knoxville’s simple sexual obsession period. Here, Bo is still a leadfoot, but Luke is a pyromaniac virgin, and that’s about as deep as they get. That’s not to say Wayne and Bennett aren’t trying, but they’re just written so thinly, that Matt Damon and Edward Norton would have had trouble breathing life into these guys. As for Daisy, the best the writers could come up with is the tried (actually that should be tired) and true plot device of taking a hot chick (and April Scott is smoking, let’s make that abundantly clear) and frumping her up as a bookworm who’s looking to burst forth into sexpotism.
The movie’s plot definitely went out the window when Catherine Bach and Jessica Simpson showed up in cameos…
Christopher McDonald’s Boss Hogg is one of the better-portrayed characters in the film. I’ve always liked McDonald, but he’s also mostly hamstringed by the weak plot. Hell, Boss’ main plot is to corner the moonshine market in Hazzard. Big whoop. At least Burt Reynolds was going to strip mine the shit out of Hazzard to turn a buck. Cornering the illegal booze racket just doesn’t seem to pack the punch necessary to carry a film as the main story. Harland Williams may actually do the most justice to his character of Roscoe. Williams got to do a lot of improving and that’s probably a good thing, because I can’t imagine that Roscoe was written much better than the rest of the characters. He brings a little bit of James Best’s version of Roscoe, and he’s certainly a far cry from M.C, Gainey’s hardass version. And other than Joel Moore as a pretty good Cooter, the rest of the characters are forgettable and I pretty much did.
Somehow Harland Williams got covered in the script…
So how did the producers get over the hump with a weak plot and not-so-stellar writing? Tits and lots of ‘em. This is the unrated version and they pretty much used the old show-the-funbags-to-spice-things-up routine. Unfortunately that premise died right around the time the Dukes TV show did, if not before. Well at the very least they could have used the General and the ridiculous stunts to save this movie couldn’t they? At least the theatrical film did that. Surely they’d use that last ditch effort wouldn’t they? Uh…no. There’s one major stunt and it’s at the end, and it’s CGI, and well, you get the idea. You can pretty much pass on this one. Or at least wait for it on CMT.
At least there’s plenty of features on this disc that at almost sort of kinda make it worthwhile, maybe. There are "The New Dukes," "Daisy’s Dukes," "The Birth of the General Lee," "A Moment with Uncle Jesse," "Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane" “Dukes in Drag” and “Dainty Hogg”, a behind-the-scenes on the animatronic pig used in one scene. Those all total about 25 minutes. There’s also a music video and trailer. Actually, I guess I was wrong anbout the whole worthwhile thing.
God I love pastels, don’t you?