Warner Home Video
Cast: Jonathan Bennett, Randy Wayne, April Scott, Willie Nelson
Extras: Featurettes, Music Video, Trailer
The following program is based on a television show. The names have not been changed so that it can be called a prequel. Okay, let me just say at the onset that I have never watched a single episode of the original "Dukes of Hazzard" TV series, nor have I seen the 2005 big-screen adaptation, but after viewing the made-for-TV prequel, "The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning," I still have no desire to see either of them. Taking its cue from the major success of the theatrical film, this movie takes us back to the rowdy Duke cousins' arrival at Hazzard County and their introduction to the characters and situations that kept TV viewers tuned in for seven seasons. However, this movie might just as well have been a prequel to "Dumb and Dumber" with its penchant for scatological humor and outrageous sexual gags.
In this unabashed comedic mess, delinquent teenaged cousins Bo and Luke Duke (Jonathan Bennett and Randy Wayne) are sent to Hazzard County to live with their Uncle Jesse (Willie Nelson) on his farm in the hopes of mellowing them down. For those of you who can't tell them apart, Bo is the dumb blond one, and Luke is the dumb dark-haired one. At the farm, the boys meet their mousy cousin Daisy (April Scott), who has just finished high school and has made a spiritual pact, along with every other girl in town, not to have sex before marriage. This is bad news for Bo and Luke, who have nothing but sex on their minds. Trouble starts brewing almost immediately as Boss Hogg (Christopher McDonald), the corrupt commissioner, decides to put a stop to Uncle Jesse's moonshine operation and seize his property. In order to keep this from happening, the young Dukes must find jobs to protect the farm.
Luckily, Bo and Luke find an abandoned 1969 Dodge Charger in a river. After sprucing it up, they name it The General Lee and use it to transport Uncle Jesse's moonshine all over town, quickly raking in the cash. Meanwhile, Daisy magically transforms herself from dowdy to slutty by taking off her glasses and slapping on a pair of short shorts to get a job at the local bar, The Boar's Nest. Boss Hogg still manages to get Uncle Jesse thrown in jail with help from incompetent sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane (Harland Williams). Will Bo and Luke be able to uncover Boss Hogg's secret scheme and release their uncle? Or will they spend the entire movie crashing their car and fighting over who is better-looking?
"The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning" made its debut on the ABC Family Channel. Inexplicably, it has been released on DVD in both R-rated and unrated editions. I honestly cannot see how this could ever have passed on the Family Channel. In addition to profanity and a plethora of topless women, the majority of the antics seem to always revolve around some kind of sexual idea. Either this was heavily edited (to the point of being butchered) or the Family Channel has gotten more liberal since I was a kid. In spite of all the raunch, there is little to laugh at in this hack job of a movie. When, oh when will writers realize that just because something is gross does not mean it is funny? One tortuous scene involves Bo and Luke trying to keep a pig from sliding off of a roof and the pig farting in their faces. Wow, a barrel of laughs (rolls eyes). It doesn't help that the two leads are a pair of walking Ken dolls, so generic in their looks and plastic in their acting that I wondered which issue of the JCPenny catalog they were cast from. Among the bukoos of naked women was Trishelle Cannatella of MTV's "The Real World." If you have never heard of her, good for you.
As for the DVD, Warner Home Video has transferred the film in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture is virtually free of dirt and artifacts. Colors are vibrant throughout, and black levels are decent. The sharpness is a tad problematic, fluctuating from very crisp to a bit soft in some scenes. Otherwise, this is pretty much what one would expect from a recent movie.
The audio comes to us by way of a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. The rear speakers are utilized nicely during the high-speed General Lee scenes, with plenty of background noise from zooming cars whizzing through. Voices are clear and audible in the front speakers. This is nothing to test your system on, but it works well enough for what the film is.
Starting off the special features are over 31 minutes of featurettes. The first is called "The New Dukes," a rather pointless look at the three leads all joking about in character. Next is "Daisy's Dukes," which spotlights April Scott and her transition into the Daisy Duke character. "Birth of the General Lee" shows us how the famous car was recreated and takes us behind the scenes of some of the big stunts. Willie Nelson gives us "A Moment with Uncle Jesse," followed by comedian Harland Williams' take on "Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane." That flatulent pig is given its own featurette in "Dainty Hogg," and lastly we get a look at Jonathan Bennett and Randy Wayne dolling it up in "Dukes in Drag." For the most part, this is all pretty fluffy material, fun for those who like the film but pretty much useless for anyone else.
Next up is a music video for the featured song "Duke Boys Swingin'," performed by Cowboy Troy and John Anderson. A trailer finishes things off.
What can I say? I did not have high expectations for this release, and I am not surprised by what I saw. It is a sad state for comedy these days, and trash like this only seems to be signaling a dismal future. Not every comedy has to be sophisticated. I, for one, enjoy a good raunchy comedy. All I ask is that it be funny. Is that really asking too much? Anyway, if you like "The Dukes of Hazzard," give this a whirl. If you want a good laugh, go watch a Mel Brooks movie.