Can teenage delinquency be cured by swift exposure to the outdoors? This question is tentatively explored in Get Duked, an energetic and mostly successful black comedy set in the Scottish Highlands. You’ll laugh, you’ll sink a tinnie.
Written and directed by Ninian Doff, who ‘doffs’ (as it were) his designer baseball cap to Edgar Wright and Chris Morris in his feature debut, it follows three ‘D’ students – Dean (Rian Gordon), Duncan (Lewis Gribben) and ‘DJ Beatroot’ (Viraj Juneja) and one misfit loner, Ian (Samuel Bottomley) who are undertaking the Duke of Edinburgh Award. The three Ds have a series of misdemeanours to their credit. Having unsuccessfully tried to set fire to his farts, Duncan introduced petrol into in the equation and blew up a toilet block. DJ Beatroot is an Asian kid turned un-PC hip-hop artist and Dean is a druggie. Ian, on the other hand, could not find a group to join. He believes the award will impress universities on his application. Dumped on a mountainside by their instructor, Mr Carlyle (Jonathan Aris, who played the creepy estate agent in Vivarium), they set out to demonstrate skills in teamwork, orienteering and foraging.
OK, so Ian has a hard time explaining what orienteering is – it sounds racially offensive. Dean uses the corner of Ian’s map to roll a spliff. DJ Beatroot cannot bring himself to wear walking shoes. They have worse things to worry about: a spate of missing teenagers and a masked hunter, the Duke (Eddie Izzard) who is intent on culling undesirables. With no reception on their mobile phones (what did they expect?) they only have their wits, a calor gas burner and a fork (‘it’s very sharp’) to defend themselves.
The humour is broad but mostly non-sexual, except for DJ Beatroot’s lyrics. He worries that he has a crap DJ name and – yes, he does. There is a point when the film crosses a line – Duncan’s enthusiasm gets the better of him -and you expect the film to go dark. But Doff has a few reversals in his cap and it is more akin to the soft comedy of Restless Natives (1985) albeit with a trippy edge.
Doff shares Mel Brooks’ enthusiasm for repeating jokes – there is a running gag (well, walking, really) about rabbit poo. But he also does not indulge the clichés of teenage delinquents. They don’t all gang up on Ian, take his stuff and humiliate him. If they did, the film would be even shorter than 84 minutes. He also brings in comedy police (Kate Hardie, Brian Pettifer) as opposed to the Comedy Police, who ensure jokes aren’t nicked from other movies. The two officers are convinced they are dealing with a threat even more devastating than a local bread thief. Alice Lowe has a deadpan late movie monologue, setting them straight. (‘One family had to spread butter on a dog biscuit.’)
Doff has a background in music videos, which serves him well when DJ Beatroot struts his stuff and in also illustrating the hallucinogenic impact of rabbit poo. Heads are enlarged, bodies gain a glowing aura.
The ending requires some stretching on disbelief, but, hey, you go with it. The film’s sentiments aren’t exactly pro-union, with British aristocracy being the comedy villains. However, title aside (changed from ‘Boyz in the Wood’), Get Duked is an assured and entertaining way to spend an evening, even setting up the (naturally) all-female sequel.
Get Duked is available to stream exclusively on Amazon Prime from Friday 28 August 2020