Odds of laugh­ing at ‘Hunger Games’ twist are mostly in your fa­vor

Chicago Sun-Times - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - RICHARD ROEPER MOVIE COLUM­NIST rroeper@sun­times.com | @RichardERo­eper

For the sec­ond time this year, we’re get­ting a movie about hu­mans hunt­ing hu­mans in a re­mote clear­ing. First there was “The Hunt,” now comes “Get Duked!” which plays this “Hunger Games” sce­nario strictly for dark laughs and suc­ceeds on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, thanks to the blaz­ing cre­ativ­ity of writer-direc­tor Ninian Doff, whose tech­nique will re­mind you more than a lit­tle of prime-form Guy Ritchie.

Orig­i­nally ti­tled “Boyz in the Wood” be­fore the switch to this in­fe­rior ti­tle, “Get Duked!” is an ac­tion-com­edy about four teenage boys who must suc­cess­fully nav­i­gate a jour­ney through the Scot­tish High­lands in or­der to win the pres­ti­gious Duke of Ed­in­burgh Chal­lenge. For the trio of delin­quents Dean (Rian Gor­don), Dun­can (Lewis Gribben) and “DJ Beet­root” (Vi­raj Juneja), this is their last at­tempt to re­deem them­selves af­ter years of fail­ing at school and get­ting into trou­ble. Round­ing out the quar­tet is the nerdy loner Ian (Sa­muel Bot­tom­ley), who has been forced to at­tend by his well-mean­ing mum, who wants Ian to make some friends. Aw, that’s nice.

Writer-direc­tor Doff has great fun play­ing with back­grounds in scene af­ter scene. Early on, the boys are obliv­i­ous to the “Miss­ing” fly­ers posted be­hind them; if they had just turned around, they would have re­al­ized dozens of their pre­de­ces­sors never emerged from the High­lands. Later, some se­ri­ously funny slap­stick gags take place be­hind char­ac­ters who never turn around. As the boys wan­der about aim­lessly (they’ve un­wit­tingly ren­dered their map use­less), look­ing for ways to get high, their snappy ban­ter is rudely in­ter­rupted by a coun­try gentle­man they dub The Duke (Ed­die Iz­zard), who starts shoot­ing at them. Turns out the Duke has a part­ner in ro­mance and in crime: the Duchess (Ge­orgie Glen), who shares the Duke’s blood­thirsty de­sire to thin the pop­u­la­tion and rid the world of “un­de­sir­ables” such as th­ese four seem­ingly dopey teens.

Much like the wan­der­ing young men, “Get Duked!” veers all over the place, with hit-and-miss gags in­volv­ing a com­i­cally in­ept lo­cal po­lice force that be­comes con­vinced a gang of ter­ror­ists has in­vaded the High­lands, and a too-long se­quence about DJ Beet­root some­how be­com­ing a cult su­per­star among the old-school farm­ers, who share the boys’ in­ter­est in get­ting messed up on hal­lu­cino­genic drugs. Doff has great fun with some de­lib­er­ately (one would think) cheesy special ef­fects that look like some­thing out of a 1980s com­edy, and delivers a hand­ful of sight gags wor­thy of “Air­plane!” or “And Now For Some­thing Com­pletely Dif­fer­ent.” The ma­te­rial is pretty thin and some of the jokes get repet­i­tive, but “Get Duked!” is good stoner com­edy fun, and quite the promis­ing de­but from a rookie film­maker.

AMA­ZON STUDIOS

Vi­raj Juneja (from left), Lewis Gribben, Rian Gor­don and Sa­muel Bot­tom­ley play teens who be­come prey dur­ing an out­door ex­pe­di­tion in “Get Duked!”

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