Producers: Matthew Plouffe, Tobey Maguire, Brian Coffey and Laura Tunstall Director: Ninian Doff Screenplay: Ninian Doff Cast: Eddie Izzard, Samuel Bottomley, Rian Gordon, Lewis Gribben, Viraj Juneja, Kate Dickie, Kevin Guthrie, Jonathan Aris, Georgie Glen, Alice Lowe, Brian Pettifer and James Cosmo Distributor: Amazon Studios
The scattershot school of anything-goes British humor, exemplified in its highest form by the Monty Python troupe, was obviously the model for this raucous teen version of “The Most Dangerous Game,” which is supposed to strike a satirical blow against the traditional class system. Unfortunately the overall ingeniousness of “Get Duked!” is about on the level of its title. (Originally it was called “Boyz in the Wood,” which is a bit cleverer, but only just.)
The picture begins with four teens being dropped off in a desolate part of the Scottish Highlands by their rabid minder Mr. Carlyle (Jonathan Aris) for a competitive team-building test aimed at winning what’s called the “Duke of Edinburgh Award.” It’s a scruffy group. Ian (Samuel Bottomley) is the serious fellow, a homeschooled nerd who really wants to win; by contrast Dean (Rian Gordon) is the pushy leader type, Duncan (Lewis Gribben) the dim-witted follower and so-called DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja) the would-be rapper.
The contest proves quickly to be a scam, a fact evidenced by scads of missing-persons posters at the drop-off site. And before long these fish-out-of-water city kids are being watched by somebody with a rifle. He turns out to be The Duke (Eddie Izzard), a wacky fellow sporting kilts and a face mask, who starts to stalk them. Joined by his similarly-masked wife (Georgie Glen), The Duke intends to kill the boys, explaining that inferiors have to be wiped out to maintain “the integrity of the species.” And by the end he’ll have been joined by some buffoonish, like-minded friends.
So the chase is on, a sort of live-action “Looney Tunes” affair with a modern hipster twist. Twists come out of left field, not least the appearance of a bunch of local farmers who introduce the newcomers to the product of local rabbits, which consume a plant that gives their droppings hallucinogenic qualities. They also prove extraordinarily receptive music-lovers, giving DJ Beatroot’s act a frenzied welcome. Of course they’re all high, but it provides an opportunity for a protracted musical number.
Juxtaposed with the action involving the boys are the efforts of two doofus local cops, Sergeant Morag (Kate Dickie) and PC Hamish (Kevin Guthrie) to track down a local n’er-do-well who’s been stealing bread. Their search for the “bread thief” will ultimately be successful even as they get dragged into The Duke’s pursuit of the boys—who, armed with Duncan’s fork (as well as a purloined rifle) turn the tables on the villains for awhile.
As written and directed by music-video maker Ninian Doff, “Get Ducked!” is anarchic nonsense of a kind long appreciated by British audiences, but not a particularly ingratiating example of the genre. Obviously intended as a showcase for Izzard, it hardly makes one anxious to see him again, while the four boys are more irritating than likable, though Juneja certainly makes the most of his over-the-top character. And the supporting cast comes on so strong that you’d think they were playing to the last row in the third balcony of a very large auditorium.
That’s characteristic of the relentless pacing of the movie, which Doff presses on with an intensity that becomes exhausting. He’s abetted in this by Patrick Meller’s showy lensing, the breakneck editing by Doff and Ross Hallard, and a score by Alex Menzies and S-Type that bangs away remorselessly. Compounded by the scruffy production design by Tom Sayer, i t all grows more and more aggravating.
Those who respond to the Midnight Movie-style madness Doff is so carefully cultivating may enjoy the wild ride he’s concocted, but others will find it a strained effort at chaotic comedy.