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Movie review: ‘Get Duked!’ falls flat with one-dimensional characters, lacks laugh-out-loud moments

(Courtesy of Brian Sweeney/Amazon Studios)

By Mark McGreal

Aug. 28, 2020 1:16 p.m.

“Get Duked!” needs more than just a name change.

Originally titled “Boyz in the Wood,” the 87-minute-long romp from Amazon Studios follows four high schoolers hiking through the Scottish Highlands in pursuit of the Duke of Edinburgh Award – a prestigious youth achievement award founded by the queen of England’s husband. During the trek, two mysterious strangers begin hunting the teenagers for sport. Directed by Ninian Doff, the film generates a few laughs, but it doesn’t have the depth to evolve from a goofy comedy into the profound dramedy it could’ve been.

Like many boilerplate comedies, drug and physical humor drive “Get Duked!” forward. Multiple scenes involve some kind of narcotic, quickly followed by intense hallucinations which look more like a YouTube video than a traditional movie sequence – a technique that manages to add some youthful appeal of the film.

Unsurprisingly, however, even the film’s hilarious moments, which are few and far between, seem to involve grisly deaths. These moments take the tone of the film from goofy to dark, making for the only memorable instances in an otherwise forgettable film.

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But maybe the only thing that won’t soon be forgotten about “Get Duked!” is its soundtrack. The movie boasts artists like Run The Jewels and Vince Staples, two huge names in hip-hop. The hard rap played against the setting of the Scottish Highlands is funny in and of itself, working well within the context of the film.

Yet the generally humorous tone takes a serious turn toward the end when one of the high schoolers, Dean (Rian Gordon), makes an impassioned speech about the state of the world. He criticizes the much older hunters for avoiding responsibility for the problems their generation has caused. The whole speech is a flash of brilliant commentary, pushing across a major theme of generational differences that audiences might have otherwise missed.

But while the message about intergenerational struggles between the young and the boomers hits all the right notes, the rest of the film isn’t serious enough to support the speech. One heartfelt monologue shoved between an hour of empty jokes feels cheap – a feeling that undermines the most notable scene in the film.

With a runtime under an hour and half, “Get Duked!” moves quickly, sacrificing quality plot and character development for easy viewing. While the film features four protagonists, it doesn’t boast one with any meaningful depth. All four of the characters are given short montages lasting no more than 20 seconds to explain everything about them. The blurbs give the basic framework for each character, but the forced exposition is the deepest the film ever dives into its characters.

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Despite the lackluster characterization, it’s still easy to root for the four high schoolers. After all, the pain of attending a mandatory field trip is relatable – the same can’t be said for two old rich people with a gun and sword hunting children. But the endearment for the main characters has more to do with the situation, and any protagonist put in the same situation would garner sympathy – it doesn’t mean the character is special in any way.

Worst of all, the so-called comedy doesn’t have enough laugh-out-loud moments to justify its one-dimensional characters. It contains a few chuckle-worthy moments, but “Get Duked!” mainly flirts with an uncomfortable laugh without ever really making it happen. A lot of the film features actors trying very hard to make a monotonous script funnier than it really is.

Ultimately, their efforts are futile and everything “Get Duked!” does well isn’t done enough. The jokes are worth a smile, but not a full-on laugh. The serious moments almost redeem the characters, but they aren’t held out long enough to really make an impact.

It’s an easy film to forget – regardless if Amazon wants to call it “Boyz in the Wood” or “Get Duked!”

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Mark McGreal
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