"I've never seen a murder before. I'm homeschooled."
Unapologetically mindless and immature, Ninian Doff's SXSW Award-winning Get Duked! is a real crowd-pleaser, so long as you set your expectations appropriately.
The film centers on a quartet of juveniles from Glasgow who embark on the real-life Duke of Edinburgh Award, a youth character-building camping trip focusing on teamwork, foraging, and orienteering. The program began sixty-four years ago and is the creation of Queen Elizabeth's husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. The film's version of the program instructs the boys to conquer a treacherous stretch of terrain, one that becomes even more complicated when they realize they are within the crosshairs of a man carrying a rifle and wearing a partially covering facemask.
If you feel this sounds vaguely familiar, you are correct. Craig Zobel's The Hunt hit theaters briefly in March, just before the pandemic shutdown, and though that film gained more controversy than commercial success, both films seep in political satire.
Best buds Dean (Rian Gordon), dumbest-of-the-lot Duncan (Lewis Gribben), and self-proclaimed rap star DJ Beetroot (Viraj Juneja) are required to attend the event after burning down their high school's bathroom. They find themselves paired with Ian (Samuel Bottomley), a friendless, homeschooled student who sees prestige in the laminated certificate one receives upon trip completion.
Though Doff initially paints the boys as reckless teenagers with no life experience who are more interested in getting high than completing the voyage, their evolution and growth throughout the short, eighty-minute film is quite remarkable. Unlike other films of its kind, we grow to understand these kids as they maneuver through the Scottish Highlands in search of safety, developing skills that invoke a sense of understanding and, dare I say, comradery.
This unfolding involves the presence of drugs and chocolate powder, including remarkably sound reasoning for digesting the region's hallucinogenic rabbit droppings, and DJ Beetroot's time in the spotlight, showcasing his mad skills in front of a room of surprisingly faithful fans. And though all these things generate a laugh and somewhat assist in pushing the film forward, they add little to the large scale narrative.
The film ultimately plays out as you might expect, with a steady infusion of stupid but lucky gimmicks that allow the group to enact, or rather, stumble into a survival plan. The course of events paves the way to a sluggishly traditional, painfully anti-climatic standoff that is honestly over before you fully realize it is even happening. And though the final conversation between hero and masked villain reaffirms the film's prominent theme, the abrupt conclusion is a unique mix of absurdity and ridiculousness.
Still, Doff, a force within the music video world, scores strong marks for his feature debut. Get Duked! isn't anything revolutionary, and offers even less by way of originality, but the film proves silly enough to work. Sure it may learn heavily on stupidity and has some difficulty staying on task. It is still a successful smart dumb comedy meant solely for those who can process it efficiently and appreciate it entirely.
*This film is streaming globally via Amazon Prime.