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The Dukes of Hazzard: Unrated Edition

Making movies is a risk. The business demands that time and money be put into a project that offers no guaranteed returns. Thus, Hollywood likes "sure things" — because when such projects fail, at least whoever was behind it has the excuse of "it worked before" to fall back on. The system still leans on stars and sequels as "sure things," but over the last few years Hollywood has increasingly relied on not just these assurances, but also brand-name familiarity, which has led to a heavy slate of remakes (The Longest Yard) and projects based on pre-existing material, like TV shows (Bewitched), comic books (Fantastic Four) and video games (Doom). Alas, what may be good for financiers' pocketbooks is not always rewarding for the viewing audience, although they too can claim that at least they got what they paid for. As a very modest entertainment, 2005's The Dukes of Hazzard — based on the CBS-TV series of the same name (1979-1985) — can call itself a success. It grossed $80 million domestically, opened at the top of the box-office chart, and should have a respectable life on home video, thanks to both a PG-13 version and an "Unrated" cut that adds more swearing, drug references, and nudity. The movie follows car enthusiast Bo Duke (Seann William Scott) and girl enthusiast Luke Duke (Johnny Knoxville), cousins who deliver moonshine for their uncle Jesse (Willie Nelson). Their lawbreaking ways get them in the crosshairs of Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane (M.C. Gainey) and Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds), but on their side are trusty mechanic Cooter (David Koechner) and their cousin Daisy Duke (Jessica Simpson). Played as an extended episode of the TV show, the brothers must foil Boss Hogg, who's trying to turn Hazzard county into a strip-mine while using a NASCAR-esque race to distract the locals. Directed by Broken Lizard member Jay Chandrasekhar — who casts many of his fellow Lizards here — Dukes manages to be entertaining enough to endure its 107-min. run-time, albeit without any stand-out sequences or performances. In fact, the movie doesn't really bother offering the characters much definition, although perhaps that's because the real star of the both the TV show and movie is the Bo's 1969 Dodge Charger the "General Lee," which is run through some impressive stunts and chases throughout. Chandrasekhar mostly seems to be trying to keep the tone agreeable (there's one awkward moment when the boys get covered in soot and look to be doing a blackface routine), and there are a couple of subversive jokes and moments of self-aware commentary. What he accomplishes is impressive, by managing to make the whole thing hold together — but the film, with its gimmick casting (Reynolds playing the Smokey role, pop singer Simpson launching her acting career, and Nelson knowingly playing the stoned uncle) is more product than art. Warner's DVD "Unrated" release of The Dukes of Hazzard presents the unrated cut (which runs only moments longer than the PG-13 theatrical version) in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include the featurettes "Daisy Dukes: The Short Short Shorts" (5 min.), the car-centric "The General Lee Lives" (5 min.) "How to Launch a Muscle Car in 4 Seconds"(5 min.), the "making-of" spot "The Hazards of Dukes" (15 min.), alternate scenes (30 min.), bloopers (11 min.), Jessica Simpson's video "These Boots are Made For Walking," and trailers. Keep-case.
—DSH



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