There I was, all ready to sit down with my family to watch Disney’s new live-action version of “Mulan.” We have a subscription to Disney Plus, so I thought we were good to go. Then, to my horror, I discovered that it costs an additional $30 to rent it! No way! My wife pointed out that Disney is probably losing a lot of money during the pandemic. Oh give me a break, Disney, you’ll be fine. She also pointed out that if we went to a theater, we would have paid at least $30. OK, fine, whatever … I’m still not buying it.
Instead, I sent the kids to bed and sought out an outlet for my disgust—one that would also lighten the mood a bit. I decided on “Get Duked!”—the newly released British horror comedy. This movie is totally free on Amazon Prime (if you have a membership).
And I guess “Get Duked!” is kind of like “Mulan.” Both are coming-of-age tales—about becoming a capital-M Man—at least nominally. Though, instead of fighting the Huns, the main characters in “Get Duked!” fight British aristocracy. And these characters are not, hmmm, let’s say, as genteel as Mulan. They’re pretty crass. And the swordplay is much less elegant. (Also, in case it’s not clear, “Get Duked!,” unlike “Mulan,” is not family friendly.)
The main characters are four teenage boys. Three of them—Duncan (Lewis Gribben), Dean (Rian Gordon) and DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja)—are bad kids. They’re troublemakers, miscreants, delinquents, bad seeds. The fourth—Ian (Samuel Bottomley)—is a good kid, but too sheltered and childlike for his own good.
What brings this motley crew together is the Duke of Edinburgh Award. This is a trek across the Scottish highlands that teenage boys have been doing since bygone eras as a rite of passage. Get to the end of the trek, survive the perils of the wilderness, and you’re a Man. Or something like that.
At first things go exactly as you’d expect. They screw around, act like buffoons, whine and yell at each other, posture, fight, goof off, etc.
But then they see someone. It’s a very proper looking gentleman, adorned with fine leather boots, a handsome hunting jacket, and one of those Scottish golfing hats. The boys are bit far off, so they can’t be sure, but they think he sure looks like the Duke of Edinburgh.
The Duke (Eddie Izzard) also has a rifle—he’s out on a hunt. And what the boys could be forgiven for not realizing at first is that the Duke is hunting, not deer or pheasant or some other beast of the wild, but them.
The Duke shoots at them while taunting them with very high-society commentary about youth and purity and aristocracy. The Duke is later joined by The Duchess (Georgie Glenn)—both wearing creepy masks and both tormenting the kids.
So what starts as a coming-of-age story quickly becomes a kind of strange horror movie involving aristocrats, and later, anarchist farmers, pagan ritualistic symbols and zombies.
The kids do their best to fend off their foes. They have some skills, but they’re not very bright. They also get really high on mushrooms, which may or may not have helped. The local police seem to be onto something, but they’re even more incompetent and focused on the wrong things than the teenage boys. So it’s sort of a race to the bottom for this skirmish between the youth, the old guard and the hapless police.
“Get Duked!” is fun—amusing. The kids are sometimes annoying, but they can be boyishly charming too. And the setting—the Scottish highlands, with kids and masked-wearing nobles, with a backdrop of freestyle rap—is a unique set of flavors that adds some kick to the movie.
“Get Duked!” is also lazily trying to do something more—to be a kind of commentary on Brexit and generational politics in Britain. But this layer of meaning is pretty limited. The movie itself doesn’t take it very seriously (not that it should), and I couldn’t detect anything particularly insightful there.
If I were more entertained by the antics of teenage boys, I suspect that I would have enjoyed this movie a lot more. But, I admit, I couldn’t really get into it. I guess you get what you pay for (or don’t pay for).
“Get Duked!” is rated R for drug content, language throughout including sexual references, and some violence/bloody images.