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Killing Time with 'The Dukes of Hazzard'


The long list of television series made into motion pictures has just gotten longer. "The Dukes of Hazzard" opens today. Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan says it is not a fun ride.

KENNETH TURAN reporting:

"The Dukes of Hazzard" is a film that is not there. It can't really be reviewed because it doesn't really exist. It's not empty calories, which imply pleasure, but simply empty. It's a cosmic void where a movie ought to be. Instead of a movie, "Dukes" is a collection of promotable elements strung together until it's time for the next show.

(Soundbite from "The Dukes of Hazzard")

Unidentified Man #1: You're going to get us shot some day.

Unidentified Man #2: Not today, not with you driving the getaway car.

(Soundbite of crash; yelling)

Unidentified Man #1: What the hell's he using?

Unidentified Man #2: You don't want to know.

Unidentified Man #3: Dad gummit, you just assassinated the tree.

TURAN: Yes, there are signs that "Dukes" has been engineered to please teen-age boys and the grown men who wish high school was eternally in session. But even those who were amused by the small-screen version will find 104 minutes stretches this material tighter than Daisy Duke's celebrated shorts. The best thing you can say about the current "Dukes" is that it's good-humored, no small thing in this spiteful day and age. We return once more to mythical Hazzard County, where people are never too busy to say `Howdy' and adults do more cackling than the entire cast of "Chicken Run."

Promotable element number one is that devilish pair of eternally grinning Duke boys, closer to action figures than actual people. Forever fightin', fussin' and funnin', happiest when they're whopping each other with phone books, the Dukes never saw a problem a car crash couldn't solve.

(Soundbite from "The Dukes of Hazzard")

Unidentified Man #1: I didn't break any bottles, so I win the bet.

Unidentified Man #2: I was just joking about the bet.

Unidentified Man #1: Oh, you were joking?

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #1: You're still getting the phone book, though.

Unidentified Man #2: Oh, come on. Double or nothing.

Unidentified Man #1: Nope. Time to pay your debt, buddy. Which side do you want, the right side or left?

Unidentified Man #2: Right.

(Soundbite of man getting hit with phone book)

Unidentified Man #1: Did I just hear one of your teeth break?

Unidentified Man #2: I don't remember the Hazzard phone book being that thick.

Unidentified Man #1: This is Atlanta.

TURAN: The boys dote on their ride. Promotable element number two, the celebrated Dodge Charger nicknamed the General Lee. Between racing the back roads, delivering prime moonshine and smooching with girls, preferably all at the same time, the oversubscribed Dukes barely have a minute to call their own.

Promotable element number three is Daisy Duke, played in her screen debut by the inexplicably celebrated Jessica Simpson.

(Soundbite from "The Dukes of Hazzard")

Ms. JESSICA SIMPSON: (As Daisy Duke) Y'all ready to order? You better be reading my name tag, friend.

Unidentified Man #4: Oh, I am. I am. I noticed your initials were double D.

TURAN: Simpson is not a great actress, but then the part of a hot tamale who dresses like a Las Vegas cocktail waitress doesn't exactly call for one. Speaking up for the dark side is the nasty Boss Hogg, played by Burt Reynolds as a parody of a parody of his best performances. The boss is so politically incorrect, he wants to strip mine Hazzard the way this film strip mines the old TV show. With no plot, character or dialogue worth experiencing, let alone remembering, "The Dukes of Hazzard" merely occupies space on the screen and hopes for the best.

(Soundbite of "These Boots Are Made for Walking")

Ms. SIMPSON: (Singing) Are you ready, boots? Start walkin'.

WERTHEIMER: Kenneth Turan is a film critic for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

(Soundbite of "These Boots Are Made for Walking")

Ms. SIMPSON: (Singing) You keep saying you've got something for me. Well, I've got something I want to say to you, too. These boots are made for walking. That's just what they'll do. One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.

WERTHEIMER: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.