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'Get Duked!' review: Fun, entertaining, but better suited for viewing in a theater

Samuel Bottomley, Viraj Juneja, Lewis Gribben and Rian

Samuel Bottomley, Viraj Juneja, Lewis Gribben and Rian Gordon star in "Get Duked!" Credit: Brian Sweeney/Amazon Studios/Brian Sweeney/Amazon Studios

MOVIE "Get Duked!"

WHERE Streaming on Amazon Prime

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Four Scottish teen boys from the city participate in a competition for the Duke of Edinburgh Award, which involves hiking their way through the Highlands without so much as a functioning cellphone, in the new comedy "Get Duked!" from writer-director Ninian Doff. It's now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Zany adventures ensue in this movie, as our heroes are shot at by snipers played by Eddie Izzard and Georgie Glen, find their minds warped by indigenous drugs, participate in a calamity involving a minibus and plenty more.

MY SAY "Get Duked!" premiered as a midnight movie at the South by Southwest Film Festival in 2019, and it's one of those pictures that's best seen in that setting, in theaters, with an audience that laughs and cheers along with every anarchic moment.

That's obviously not an option presently, and it's certainly better seen on a streaming device. But the movie does offer a reminder of the power of the communal experience to elevate material like this to a special place. 

It has been made in a recognizably trippy, comic spirit, deriving ample humor from the specter of the protagonists and the locals embarking on one long and weird journey through this majestic region. It's fun and the satire has a bit of depth to it, even if the movie never quite carves out its own identity.

The teens are Ian (Samuel Bottomley), Duncan (Lewis Gribben), Dean (Rian Gordon) and DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja), who, as you might imagine, is not really named DJ Beatroot and is the subject of serious ribbing for picking a vegetable for a stage name.

They've come to the Highlands with their instructor Mr. Carlyle (Jonathan Aris), to get some quality time in the rustic splendor. Things go quite strangely almost from the outset, as the teens find themselves hunted by a mask-wearing, shotgun-bearing character referred to simply as The Duke (Izzard), who professes a desire to "cull the herd" along with The Duchess (Glen).

Viewers with a nuanced understanding of the cultural and political clashes between this sparsely populated region and the Scottish Lowlands would surely find a lot to appreciate about the way Doff's screenplay pointedly highlights just how immense and frightening the rolling green hills and the people therein seem to the protagonists.

Of course, you might assume that you'd be shot at by scary, "Wicker Man"-like yokels in a place like the Highlands, if you've never bothered to think about the world beyond your cellphone. 

These teens are in desperate need of a real experience and they find it in the course of fighting for their lives.

Let's be clear, though: while the picture also touches on questions of class conflict and cultural appropriation, it's best understood as a movie about one giant, weird drug trip.

Some crazy psychedelics that seem to be unique to the Highlands come onto the scene shortly after our protagonists arrive in the great outdoors. These cause heads to float and multiply, body parts to protrude into distorted shapes, people to stretch and expand like ghostly spectres and others to actually enjoy DJ Beatroot's artistic oeuvre.

It is a fine entry in this subgenre and others, sharing traits with everything from "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" to "Shaun of the Dead," but more than anything, it'll make you miss seeing movies with an audience.

BOTTOM LINE Seen at home, "Get Duked!" is fun and entertaining, but it would play better with an audience in a theater.

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