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The Dukes of Hazard Movie - My Thoughts

The Dukes of Hazard is a movie that I wanted to see when it was released in 2005 but didn't because, well, I just didn't get around to it.

Not only that but when I heard Johnny Knoxville and Jessica Simpson were in it my expectations were immediately lowered to "it's probably not going to be what I hoped it could be." Which is why I've never been pro-active about hiring the movie on DVD.

Last night I saw it was being shown on free to air TV. I happened to have the time to watch, so I did. To sum up my experience... I didn't get fired up by the movie until I watched the 'bloopers' in the end credits.

The Dukes of Hazard signature is the car. The General Lee flying through the air in some flat out impossible jumps. We know they're impossible jumps but they're just so cool you kind of want to believe the General Lee can do them. The point is, in the TV series, you never (or rarely) saw the General Lee not land safely and undamaged.

Thus, seeing the General Lee crash all over the place in the movies blooper reel, is spectacularly exciting. Finally you get to see what would really happen to the car, jumping that high and just how hard it is, even for a stunt driver, to maintain control.

The other positive I can say about this movie is that they did take the opportunity to really step up the driving sequences beyond what the TV series could. Seeing the General Lee 'drifting' around a city round-a-bout is something we've never seen the car do on TV.

It's all down hill from there. I'm not only glad I didn't pay money to see this in the cinema I'm also glad I didn't hire the DVD (although I'm sure, if the DVD has more 'bloopers' on it of the General Lee it would be worth it).

After watching the movie I got caught up reading the movies forum on the Internet Movie Data Base (researching for this blog article), specifically the thread Why do you hate this movie? Let's settle this once and for all.

The thread was started by AutumnRed who is a big fan of this movie and the TV series and, to those who have expressed a view of hate, he will defend this movie to the death.

I've read through the whole thread and people have hated this movie for reasons like, miscasting, bad acting, weak plot, crude humor, dumbed down for today's audiences, devalues the TV show, isn't true to the TV show, lower moral standards of the Dukes, the list goes on.

AutumnRed defends the movie by saying it is a parody of the TV series and/or a re-imagining of the TV series. It's a stand alone movie that shouldn't be compared to the TV series. All very true points though I don't believe it's a parody of the TV series. The closest it ever gets to parody is the city folk's reaction to a car with a Confederate flag painted on the roof (in this day and age). Beyond that it's more a re-imagining based on the source material.

Personally I didn't expect this film to be like the TV series. In fact I'd be disappointed if it was. Part of what makes a movie version of a TV series exciting is seeing how it is adapted, updated, re-imagined for the big screen.

When this movie starts you see a very old, beat up General Lee, with no Confederate flag on the roof, being chased through the back roads of Hazard County. In the TV Series the General Lee rarely looked anything less than having just been driven off the showroom floor so I immediately thought, maybe this movie has some potential.

After all this is a car owned by struggling farmers running an illegal moonshine business on the side. It's driven like it's forever competing in a perpetual rally race. It should look a little worn and beaten.

At the end of this chase scene we get to the phone book incident. For me that speaks volumes about why this film is widely hated by fans of the TV show. The Duke boys hitting each other, painfully in the face, with phone books to resolve a bet. It would never happen.

The movie introduces a kind of 'meanness' into the relationship between Bo and Luke Duke that really plays on the likability and charisma that these two characters had in the TV show. For all their failings as small time outlaws you can forgive them because they were so much fun to be around and just so likable.

Bo and Luke are cousins who spend so much time together because they enjoy each others company. They're the kind of friends that look out for each other. Competitive - yes but in a good way rather than a self destructive way.

Personally I don't want to hang around with fools who find humor in seeing their friends hurt or who do things like sleep with a girl I have a crush on behind my back. Hence this was a major hurdle to my enjoyment of the film. I didn't like this version of Bo and Luke. Even though they do look out for each other, there's an under current to the relationship that is like biting through a worm in a juicy looking apple. It's just off.

You can see this meanness in the scene where Bo drags Luke along behind Cooter's tow truck, as Luke is trying to open Boss Hog's safe which they've attached to the tow truck's hook. Bo clearly knows Luke wants him to stop but Bo says to himself "Sorry Cous' but you'd do the same to me." It's a scene that could have been far funnier if Bo wasn't aware of Luke's actual predicament. Instead, not only is he aware, but he's calculating and unnecessarily prolonging Luke's perilous situation.

I could go on and make all the comparisons about this movie to the TV show and how the shift in all of the interpretations of each character is a step backwards rather than forwards. The thing is, as AutumnRed points out, this is not the TV show.

When I finally saw this film I wasn't as disappointed with either Johnny Knoxville or Jessica Simpson as I expected to be. Johnny and Seann William Scott, as Bo, actually worked pretty well together. Jessica wasn't terrible either though stripping her down to a bikini was kind of unnecessary (I'm not complaining but seriously, Enos would've told Daisy anything if she so much as hinted he had even a remote chance with her).

When a TV show is brought to the big screen you kind of hope it will exceed your expectations and be a shining light for keeping the memory of a great show alive. Not only that but it may even be well enough received for a sequel (or better yet be the start of a great franchise or give rise to a new TV series).

As it goes, the best Dukes of Hazard fans can hope for is that people protested loudly enough about this film to hope another director will take up the challenge and show us how it should have been done.

I don't want the TV series in a big screen version of Dukes of Hazard. However when I think of movie adaptations of a TV series my mind goes back to The Adams Family (1964). The TV series was funny, charming and well written. The two big screen adaptations, The Adams Family (1991) and Adams Family Values (1993), enhanced what was good about the TV show and built upon it further.

The producers of The Dukes of Hazard movie thought it was just the car that made the series good but it wasn't just the car. The relationships between all the characters were important too. Somehow in this movie they weakened all the relationships to the point where no one was really that likable. Least of all the leads.

No matter how the series is adapted to the big screen the most important factor is that it be a 'buddy' movie. It's about two cousins that would die for each other if it came to that. They're fun to be around and they both can drive a car better than anyone. They're not perfect role models but you want to be just like them anyway.

I didn't want to be like either Bo of Luke in this version of the Dukes. In fact I'm glad I only knew them briefly because they're not people I'd want to hang with at all.

If you liked this movie then you're either very forgiving or it's your style of humor. For me, I kind of hoped for a more intelligent movie. The Dukes may be country folk but they were never simpletons (not even Daisy).

Most country folks I've met are very smart people. I know the Dukes aren't a family of brain surgeons but they are very resourceful and spent much of their time staying ahead of the law. You have to have some intelligence to do that.

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