“The Dukes” Fall Short

The Dukes of Hazzard delivers exactly what the trailer promises: car chases, a few laughs and a lot of shots of Jessica Simpson squeezed into a pair of Daisy Dukes. The story focuses on the Duke Cousins, Bo (Seann William Scott), Luke (Johnny Knoxville) and Daisy (Simpson), who run an illegal moonshine business in Hazzard, Georgia with their Uncle Jesse (Willie Nelson). The Dukes spend the bulk of the movie fighting against the corrupt and powerful Boss Hogg, who seizes the Dukes’ farm on trumped-up charges and plans to build a coal mine in its place. There is also a sub-plot of making sure the Dukes’ car, a 1969 Dodge Charger named The General Lee, wins the annual Hazzard race for the fifth time in a row. The Dukes of Hazzard isn’t really about plot, though; most of the runtime is taken up by car chases. Knoxville got it right when he said the plot was “just an excuse to blow s–t up and look at Jessica [Simpson]’s legs.”

The movie lacks suspense. Are we actually supposed to worry that Bo won’t win the race or that Boss Hogg will succeed in his evil plan to strip mine Hazzard? A few good performances help to make up for the weak story line. The best performance in The Dukes of Hazzard is turned in by Knoxville, who manages to add enough charm to his role to keep his character from appearing entirely one-dimensional. Nelson gives perhaps his worst performance yet as Uncle Jesse, whose lines consist of telling lame jokes (What do you call a farmer with a sheep under each arm? A playboy!) at completely random times. The only thing Nelson brings to the movie is a musical number in the last scene, and most viewers would probably rather have heard Jessica Simpson. Simpson, who makes her big screen debut with Hazzard, shows little acting potential and is basically reduced to a sexual punch line. Perhaps the best joke in the movie involves a female cop thwarting Daisy’s attempts to lure the other (male) officers away from their post.

One of the best pieces of the movie is when the script completely detours from the weak plot on a road trip to a college campus in Atlanta. The Dukes find themselves on a college campus filled with pot-smoking, hot sorority girls who, of course, find the Dukes immensely attractive. In the Atlanta scenes the script also addresses the racial connotations of having a confederate flag painted on top of a car called “The General Lee.” In one scene the Dukes get covered in coal because of a lab explosion and then drive through a black neighborhood, whose residents are not amused by the combination of the car and the Dukes’ blackened faces. In a traffic jam on the way to Atlanta, neighboring cars shout various remarks at them, ranging from “Aren’t you late for your Klan meeting, a–holes?” to “The South will rise again!” It is also immensely enjoyable to see the infamous General Lee stuck in traffic.

The Dukes of Hazzard is definitely not going to see any Academy Award nominations. The humor is basic and often crude, the acting is pretty poor and the plot is virtually non-existent. That being said, it still serves up an enjoyable two hours, complete with high-powered car chases, southern stereotypes and lots of eye candy. With the exception of a few disturbing shots of “Sheev” (Kevin Heffernan) in revealing tighty-whities, the actors in Hazzard are incredibly attractive. However, for those who want to see the movie solely for the shots of a scantily clad Jessica Simpson, they might be disappointed, since she is absent for much of the film. It might be better to buy the poster.

All in all, The Dukes of Hazzard is really a car chase movie. But throughout all those chases, The General Lee somehow never runs out of gas. At over three dollars a gallon, we’d all be interested in knowing their secret.