The straight-to-video market has taken off in the last few years, with studios producing an increasing number of sequels to existing properties. The results are often fair at best, yet enough people rent these titles in order to keep them headed to store shelves. The latest efforts is "Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning", a prequel to the disappointing 2006 film that starred Sean William Scott, Johnny Knoxville and Jessica Simpson.
The sequel, directed by frequent TV director Robert Berlinger (TV's "Gilmore Girls" and "Arrested Development") and written by first-timer Shane Morris, focuses on Bo Duke (Jonathan Bennett) and Luke Duke (Randy Wayne), teenagers here and in trouble within moments of the opening credits. When they're arrested by the cops, they're sentenced to work on their Uncle Jesse (Willie Nelson, the only one returning from the prior film)'s farm, where he makes moonshine.
However, Jesse's in trouble with Boss Hogg (Christopher McDonald), who is demanding more money to look the other way from Jesse's illegal business. When Luke and Bo accidentally injure Boss Hogg's prize hog, he demands the money sooner than later, or he'll foreclose on the farm. Daisy (April Scott in this one), a wallflower at this point, decides to take a job at the Boar's Nest and falls for the new bartender. Meanwhile, Bo and Luke have found the General Lee and try to figure out a way to keep the farm from going under.
A main issue (and understandably so) for a lot of viewers will be that this is (as with the 2005 film) doesn't entirely go along with the original series in tone, story or otherwise - it's geared towards an "American Pie"-style late teen audience (see the language and nudity, including one scene where Bo and Luke drive an ATV through the girls' locker room.) Keeping that this isn't true to the original series in mind, this fares decently in comparison with the teen genre.
The film also fares quite a bit better than the 2005 "Dukes" did. Although "The Beginning" isn't going to win any awards either, it at least gets a few mild laughs, Bennett and Hughes make a good pair and the plot - while still thin - is at least a bit more involving, despite a few draggy moments in the middle. "The Beginning" isn't anything memorable, but I thought it was better than the trailers made it look.
There are rated and unrated versions available on DVD. While I'm unsure of the difference, I'd guess that several scenes in the unrated version were probably not there when the film made its premiere on ABC Family.
VIDEO: "Dukes: The Beginning" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen on this edition. Although a few minor issues were occasionally spotted, this was largely a crisp, clean presentation. Sharpness and detail were fine throughout much of the film, although a few scenes occasionally appeared a touch softer than the rest. While a couple of instances of edge enhancement appeared, the majority of the film looked clean and clear. The film's bright color palette popped off the screen well, appearing well-saturated and bright. Overall, this was a very fine transfer.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was a "comedy mix", with little in the way of surround use, aside from a couple of minor surround effects and ambience. Audio quality was fine, with clear dialogue.
EXTRAS: 31-minute "making of" (broken into a bunch of shorter featurettes), music video and trailer.
Final Thoughts: "Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning" isn't anything memorable, but I thought it was better than the trailers made it look. The DVD offers very good video quality, fine audio and a few minor extras. Those interested should try a rental first.
The Film C+