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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Dukes of Hazzard (review)

Quantum Morons

I felt for a moment that the whole Duke family was a fraud, just a wall of lawlessness and motor-cars and moonshine, and that if it fell I should find nothing behind it but panic and emptiness.–E.M. Forster

Oh no, wait, no, Forster was talking about the Wilcox family in Howards End, with their newspapers and golf-clubs and — yes — motor-cars, not the Dukes. But the sense of utter numbing despair inspired by the two clans is the same. The vapidity, the hollow, yawning nothingness of this, the worst kind of cinematic fluff, is of a nature that forces you to ponder the senselessness of a universe in which the cosmic laws are such that The Dukes of Hazzard is permitted to exist. If only, say, the atomic weight of hydrogen were shifted slightly to the negative, or the cosmological constant were a mere tenth of a decimal point different, not only would DoH be impossible, but so would we, as observers of DoH. And in this existential conundrum, in this paradox of space and time and Hollywood, one finds a kind of quantum filmic peace, if only for the briefest of nanomoments, in the understanding that of all the uncountable gazillion possible universes, only one — this one — is perverse enough to allow both us and DoH.
Does not the actuality of DoH prove, however, that if God exists, he has a wicked sense of irony, in that He saw fit to arrange things so that a boobilcious cartoon of a lass named Simpson should appear in a movie that not only embodies the many moods of her animated relative’s signature exclamation but also may be represented by the generally agreed upon spelling of that signature exclamation? In that DoH, do we not see the hand of the Almighty at work? And is that hand not slapping us hard about the vicinity of the noggin?

When I sit down, I say, When shall I arise and the Dukes be gone? And I am full of tossings to and fro unto the ending of the movie.–not Job 7:4

It is one thing to say, Let us elevate the most vacuous of television entertainments to a higher plane, say, 70mm. But it is on the order of a dark miracle to take something already so blank, so formless, and so pointless as an action comedy series about two happy morons and their nearly naked cousin and suck everything out of it that was, purely in retrospect and by comparison, sweet, cheerful, and lively. The emptiness of the emptiness of this filmic version of DoH is horrifying on a contemplating-the-infinite void level: the deeper you look into the infinite, the harder you try to find the bottom of the void, the more you come to appreciate the futility of it all. In a universe that’s mostly empty space anyway, DoH is an anomalous region of sheer nothingness.

We can say, Yes, it is absurd that no one notices that between them, cousins and best buddies Bo and Luke Duke have not two brain cells to rub together. But then should not that vacuum be filled with some kind of moronic joie de vivre by Seann William Scott (The Rundown, Bulletproof Monk), as Bo (or is it Luke?), and Johnny Knoxville (Lords of Dogtown, Walking Tall), as Luke (or is it Bo?)? Could not they approach the merry idiocy of their TV counterparts John Schneider and Tom Wopat? Why must they instead remind us that life is nasty, brutish, and characterized by wretched sorrow, and that while you’re struggling to make your way in the world and find some shred of meaning in your pains, they — after smacking you in the face with this truth about the universe — are counting their millions, or would do, if they could count?

We can say, Yes, it is absurd that no one notices that Duke cousin Daisy is scarily plastic, that her teeth are an unnatural shade of dazzling white, that she dresses like a whore but then gets upset when she is treated like one. But then should not Jessica Simpson have compensated with such foolishness by evincing even a minute fragment of the fresh, innocent sexiness of her TV counterpart, Catherine Bach? Why must she instead parodize the appeal of the female form, remind us of all that is robotic and fake and manufactured about the concept of “sexiness” today?

I was searching for a project that really captured the American spirit.–‘DoH’ producer Bill Gerber

And so we wail and gnash our teeth and rend our clothes and despair, that neither science — with its attempts to explain the incomprehensible senselessness of the universe — nor religion — with its aspirations to comfort us in the face of such awesome and awful knowledge — is able to adequately account for The Dukes of Hazzard. Perhaps it is a wave function of some heretofore undiscovered law of quantum physics that states that the underlying nature of the universe can never be fully understood. Perhaps it is a trial from God to remind us that only He may look upon the face of eternity and all the total nullity that comprises it with anything like comprehension. Perhaps it is both. As T.S. Eliot might have written, had he lived at the tail end of the 20th century or the leading edge of the 21st:

August is the cruelest month, spewing
Crap out of the multiplex, taunting
Memory and desire, prompting
Angry riots of enraged fans.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for sexual content, crude and drug-related humor, language and comic action violence

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
posted in:
action | comedy | reviews

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