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Wednesday 16th January, 2019

Bizarre Thought for the Week, w/c 29th August 2005
Tony Dobson

Hi all,
When the announcement was made that a "Dukes of Hazzard" film was being made I was excited. I loved the show as a child, and won't ever deny how much I enjoyed it. As a matter of fact I even picked up an old "Dukes of Hazzard" annual second-hand a few years back (typically I can't find it now - I think the Mrs has despatched it to a charity shop by the looks of things). Therefore you won't be surprised to learn that I had to see the film at the first opportunity I had. Here's what I thought of it.

One of things I mentioned to Lorraine while watching the film was that I viewed the subject as a glorified kid's show. Really, that's what the "Dukes of Hazzard" was, the kind of show where people would have fun and then at the end of the show you'd go away, get your toy cars and run them off makeshift ramps, tables and stairs.

So what did the film become? Well the car chases aren't as bad as some reviewers have said, but they're not of the previous vintage, or of the calibre of "The Blues Brothers" (which has the funniest car chase in film history in my opinion).

Oh, and the first car chase has the Dukes chased by an angry father after Luke has had his wicked way with his daughter. And he's after the Dukes with a big ole gun. Nice.

There are a lot more explosions than I ever remember in the TV series. They've tried to go large on the special effects and action and gone too far. The funny writing and use of original situations has been left behind with the TV show. Pity, as I feel it has gone away from the roots of what the show was.

Incidentally I kept expecting Seann William Scott to go back into his "American Pie" role. Who picked him and Knoxville as the two leads? Not great choices in my view.

It wasn't until I saw the film that I remembered something, that being just how funny the bad guys were. J.D. Hogg was supposedly cruel and ruthless, yet there was always something about him which you pitied - probably because you knew that his plans would ultimately fail. And then there was his ridiculous moaning and the occasional roll around on the ground. Good ole fashioned pantomime stuff.

What does the film version give us? Burt Reynolds. His most ridiculous feature? His facelift. However his slim appearance and moustache give him a lot more sinister look. It is an altogether different J.D. Hogg.

And where do I start with Rosco? You can't forget Rosco if you loved the TV series. The incompetent policeman who tried to be mean but had a really kind side, plus he was a dog lover, always thinking about his beloved "Flash". Add in the "Ros-Co-P-Col-Trane" radio call and the series of sounds he made (most notably the spell-checker buster that used to follow the closing credits) and you had more than an incompetent bad guy, you had a cult comedy hero.

The film Rosco? Well without even looking at I'd guess that the actor who played him has had a long history of playing corrupt prison guards. It is an altogether nastier, cynical, brutal Rosco. He doesn't even seem to care about Flash that much. Shame.

I remember during one of my many off days at University (one of the reasons why I have a naff job and do things like this to amuse myself) that I found myself watching an old episode of "The Dukes of Hazzard" with my housemate Chris. Without even saying anything both of us found ourselves in a chorus of tribute to Waylon Jennings at the end of the show:

Makin? their way
The only way they know how
That?s just a little bit more
Than the law will allow."

It almost brings a tear to my eyes. Good days, good memories.

What's more I almost felt the same when in the opening minutes of the film the familiar old tune kicked in. "Oh my goodness," I thought, "What a touch!" Of course at that moment they began to fade it down. Wrong. Then they had Willie Nelson sing it at the end of the film. Wrong. And then the titles finished with Jessica Simpson singing "These Boots Are Made For Walking". Wrong, wrong, wrong!

If they're going to fiddle with things needlessly you need to do things. 1) Still go back to the theme song. 2) Do it drastically differently. As a matter of fact I found a good mp3 by a band called Hot Water who did a variation of the theme song. Use that instead, but failing all else you couldn't have gone wrong with the original. In fact I'm going to have to listen to it now. Talk amongst yourselves for five minutes.

(And we're back.)

Ah, the famous General Lee, a dash of flying orange which introduced me to the Confederate flag long before I'd heard about the American Civil War.

So what have they done with the car? Well when the film starts you see Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott opening the doors to the General Lee. Nooooo!!! You don't open the doors to the General Lee, it just isn't done! Of course had this happened in the TV show then my Mum wouldn't have had to tell me off umpteen times as a child for climbing into a car through the windows.

Thankfully it gets better. The doors are sealed, the horn comes back, and the axles are resilient. In fact it all becomes a bit too perfect. I half expected Cooter to be working for the boys at West Coast Customs.

Now I know that Hollywood likes to get things perfect, but it really bugged me that most of the in-car footage was close-up, and shot from the side. Didn't anyone tell the director that one of the best parts of "The Dukes of Hazzard" was the lack of continuity? There's Bo and Luke, working hard on the steering wheel of the General Lee while the blue screen footage behind them shows a nice straight road. It worked the other way too, as the two cousins discussed a chase while gliding along. Meanwhile a twisty road would wind it's way behind them.

And they didn't do this once in the film. Shame. At least they had the running voiceover and handy use of freeze frames, so they didn't completely forget about the original show.

Hey, I like Atlanta more than most people, but the scenes in Atlanta were a bit needless and didn't serve too much of a purpose. The TV show never needed to leave Hazzard County, I don't see why the film did, except to remind me that I'm stuck at home this year. I was half expecting the General Lee to pull into The Varsity just to really hack me off.

Oh, and people in Atlanta aren't than unfriendly either. Just the opposite in fact (well, with the possible exception of Decatur). Interesting point though to raise the political correctness of the Confederate flag on the car in this day and age.

Good to see Enos make an appearance. I'd nearly forgotten about the significant part he used to play in some episodes.

Jessica Simpson isn't that bad in this. In fact I almost forgot how thick she can be in episodes of "Newlyweds", so I guess that's good acting. Still a poor man's Catherine Bach though.

My overall rating? Not bad, but it could have been an awful lot better. I'm still enough of a fan to hope that a sequel will do the job.

Have a good week!

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