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Thursday, Aug. 4, 2005 05:51 pm

A swell rebel yell

Cheesecake, car chases, and things that get blowed up real good — wow!

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The Dukes of Hazzard

It should come as no surprise that the big-screen adaptation of The Dukes of Hazzard is filled with crude, sophomoric humor; that the General Lee, a souped-up Dodge Charger, undergoes more character development than any of its human co-stars; and that Jessica Simpson is resplendent in a bikini. Oh, and did I happen to mention that stuff gets blowed up real good and that the film perpetuates stereotypes of Southerners? Obviously one would think that none of these qualities on its own, let alone all of them thrown together in the same cinematic pot, would contribute to any recipe for success.

But I’ll be gosh-darned if I didn’t love every minute of this movie.

If cheesecake, car chases, and explosions can be rendered as high art, Jay Chandrasekhar’s version of Dukes is a prime example. Unabashedly crude and driven by the single-minded pursuit of pleasing the original TV show’s legion of fans, the film revels in its lowbrow roots and delivers perhaps the most entertaining movie of the summer. What’s surprising is just how clever it actually is.

Though it’s as thin as onionskin, a plot propels this tribute to underachievement. Nefarious Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds, clad, of course, in all-white attire) is up to his old tricks again. As county commissioner, he’s snatching up various properties through the use of questionable legal practices. Wouldn’t you know it, the latest home to fall under his control is that of Uncle Jesse Duke (Willie Nelson). Obviously something must be done, and cousins Bo, Luke, and Daisy (Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville and Jessica Simpson, respectively) set out to discover what Hogg is up to.

Though this mission upsets the boys’ daily routine of running moonshine, getting friendly with the young women of Hazzard County, and engaging in fistfights at the local honky-tonk, they still manage to find ways to save the day. A side trip into Atlanta produces all sorts of mayhem, and a climactic road race provides Bo the opportunity to show just what the General Lee can do.

It’s obvious that everyone involved was having fun while making this movie. No one will be accused of giving anything resembling a great performance here, but the casting is perfect; everyone hits his or her mark, and says the lines with conviction. In the end, The Dukes of Hazzard follows the philosophy of its main characters to a T — it provides a brand of harmless fun that ends up being so entertaining that I’m about to say something I never thought I would: I want a sequel, and I want it now.

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