Dukes Are Hazzardous to Your Health
Poor Burt Reynolds. Once one of America's biggest movie stars, lately he has had to play second banana to younger, less talented actors in movies that basically rip off his own biggest hits. Earlier this summer, he had to watch Adam Sandler take over his role as a football star who gets sent to prison in The Longest Yard. And now he has to play bad guy Boss Hogg in The Dukes of Hazzard, a big-screen remake of a 1980s TV show that, in its own way, tapped into the anti-authoritarian, booze-smuggling, car-chasing, CB-radio vibe of the Smokey and the Bandit movies that Reynolds starred in way back when.
The big-screen Dukes of Hazzard is directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, who sent up highway cops and other authority figures a few years ago in Super Troopers, a film he made with the comedy troupe Broken Lizard. He brings the same drugs-and-sex frat-boy mentality to Hazzard—going in an even dumber and more profane direction than other recent TV-show spin-offs like Bewitched and The Brady Bunch Movie—and most Christian critics are not amused.
Mary Lasse (Christianity Today Movies) says the film could have been "fun and family-friendly," but instead it is "an offensive cross between American Pie and Jackass: The Movie." She describes an early scene in which one of the Duke cousins pops in for a quickie with one of the local girls while making a moonshine delivery, and is then chased off the property by her gun-toting brother and father. "Thinking that the filmmakers had clearly established Luke's womanizing tendencies, I hoped that the film would then focus less on sex and more on the actual story. But, silly me, it quickly became evident that the severe lack of story prevented the filmmakers from doing anything but."
Christian Hamaker (Crosswalk) says this "uncomfortably crude" film is "aimed straight at today's teenage audience, with enough eye-candy and car chases to satisfy undiscriminating boys and girls, but enough profanity and sexual suggestiveness to make a grown man blush … The disposable plot clearly is secondary to the filmmakers' main concern: car chases, stunt scenes and the frivolous squabbles between Bo and Luke. Any fun to be had is in the telling of the story, but it's here that the screenwriters fail the audience."
Steven Isaac (Plugged In) pays special attention to the sexual objectification of former pastor's daughter Jessica Simpson, and he also notes a "spectacularly irresponsible" scene in which Uncle Jesse (Willie Nelson) turns bottles of his moonshine into Molotov cocktails and throws them at the police cars chasing him. Isaac concludes that the problem with this film is its attitude: "Silliness has been replaced by meanness. Goofiness with dull stupidity. Laugh lines with sexual sludge. Exclamations are now laced with vulgarity. And 'trying to do the right thing but doing it the wrong way' has given in to 'just do whatever you please at whatever cost.' Never before has that signature, beat-up orange hotrod shown so many dents … Not even Boss Hogg would want to punish the Duke boys as much as this movie does."
Mainstream critics seem to think Dukes will be Hazzard-ous to most moviegoers' health.
Viewers looking for a respite from the deliberately dumb Dukes might be interested in Broken Flowers, which stars Bill Murray, another star of the 1970s and early 1980s who has won acclaim in recent years for his more dramatic sad-clown roles in films like Rushmore and Lost in Translation. Murray plays Don Johnston ("with a T"), a soulless, wealthy man who revisits several of his former lovers—played by Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy, Tilda Swinton and a surprisingly competent Sharon Stone—when he receives an anonymous letter indicating that one of them may have had a son by him nearly two decades ago.