NEW YORK (CNS) — In 1956, Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, established a program designed, in part, to expose young city dwellers to the glories of the wilderness. It was named the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award after the title he holds as a member of the Royal Family.
Having spread around the world, the scheme has no doubt done much good in the six decades and more since its founding. But it has had at least one negative, though surely unintended, consequence: It provides the premise for the wretched British comedy “Get Duked!” (Amazon).
By way of punishment for burning down their school’s lavatory in an effort to see what feces would look like aflame, three habitually misbehaving Glasgow teens — hip-hop enthusiast DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja) and his dim pals Duncan (Lewis Gribben) and Dean (Rian Gordon) — are signed up, against their will, for a two-day trek across the highlands of Scotland under the aegis of the award organization.
They’re joined by earnest, straitlaced Ian (Samuel Bottomley) a fellow student intent on taking the experience seriously. One of their teachers, Mr. Carlyle (Jonathan Aris), will drop the boys off and camp with them at the end of each leg of their foray.
No sooner are they left on their own, however, than the lads find themselves being hunted through the glens by a rifle-toting aristocrat (Eddie Izzard) and his sword-wielding wife (Georgie Glen), a duo they dub the Duke and Duchess. The Duke announces that the couple’s purpose is to cull undesirable members of the rising generation.
A running joke about the hallucinatory effects of eating rabbit droppings typifies the sophomoric quality of the humor in writer-director Ninian Doff’s rambling stupidity fest. Barely a grade higher is the weak pun that gives rise to an exchange in which DJ Beatroot, who is of South Asian extraction, takes exception to Ian’s use of the term “orienteering,” which he somehow mistakes for a slur on his ancestry.
“Get Duked!” pauses briefly to salute the bond that develops among the quartet of outsiders and to decry the U.K.’s class system. In fact, the whole outlandish plot line about the murderous Duke and Duchess is meant to serve as a parable about the predatory ways of the establishment and the impoverished heritage old people like themselves have left to the young.
But Doff, a veteran music video director, is no more adept at being serious than at evoking laughs. The fact that “Get Duked!” — his feature debut — has garnered widespread critical praise is perplexing. He may be in Scotland afore ye, but he has certainly taken the low road to get there.
The film contains violent incidents, gory images played for laughs, benignly viewed drug use and underage drinking, much scatological humor, a few mild oaths, pervasive rough and crude language and obscene gestures. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.