“Get Duked!” – The Duke of Edinburgh Award is an outdoor adventure challenge that takes “young delinquents out of the city and into the countryside.”
Misguided teens may be a more appropriate moniker for the program’s target audience, and “Get Duked!” features three perfect candidates. Outside education teacher Mr. Carlyle (Jonathan Aris) recruits (aka forces) troublemaking teenagers Dean (Rian Gordon), Duncan (Lewis Gribben), and DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja) on a trip to the Scottish Highlands for four days and three nights.
Hopefully, the classmates can ingest some fresh air and work together. To rightfully complete this expedition in exile, they need to demonstrate Teamwork, Orienteering, and Foraging. These classmates have a rich history of collaboration, because they recently set a school bathroom on fire and posted the act on social media, which – naturally – triggered their immediate enrollment on this hiking and camping trip. How will these city kids make it in the wide-open spaces?
“Get Duked!” certainly made it at SXSW 2019, because it won the Midnight Audience Award (when the film was previous-named “Boyz in the Wood”). After watching writer/director Ninian Doff’s sometimes-zany tiptoe-into-the-rural-unknown, this critic agrees that the midnight-madness genre perfectly fits. With an industrial, rap score accompanying our three heroes – who pick up a mild-mannered fourth named Ian (Samuel Bottomley) – along with lots of drug use and gregarious physical comedy, Doff’s picture steps into cinematic delights for adolescent and college-aged kids (mostly guys) everywhere.
With the UK as the setting, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975) and “Trainspotting” (1996) act like nurturing grandparents and parents for this new generation.
When Dean, Duncan, DJ Beatroot (although this hopeful rap star’s God-given name is William), and Ian step into the hilly, green landscape and complain of cow manure aromas, one might instantly picture Tommy (Kevin McKidd) encouraging his “Trainspotting” mates to enjoy the great outdoors in Danny Boyle’s landmark picture. Alas, Tommy and his buddies turned around and hopped on the train back to Edinburgh.
These 21st-century fellas don’t spring across grassy buttes and run into the Knights Who Say “Ni!”, but Doff includes a couple moments of Python insanity that pop up at the most unsuspecting times.
Filming a group of city slickers trekking and setting up camp in an isolated, pastoral locale is ripe for lush comic blossoms, but the lads also run into terminal danger. The struggle with the rugged terrain slides away a bit, because dodging this ominous threat (which will not be explained in this review) becomes their primary tussle.
Of course, frequent screw-ups – like Dean making a (hash) cigarette wrapper out of their only map – showcase the kids’ short-sighted thinking and clumsy innocence.
The young actors carry generous heaps of charisma and chemistry to hold our attention, and Duncan’s boneheaded judgment and DJ Beatroot’s/William’s hip-hop potential sing warped-joy throughout the picture. The script throws them into a different world, like some unseen force setting teenage mice into a maze constructed of emerald fields, empty valleys, some local farmers, and a mysterious menace. A dozen missing posters taped on the Scottish Wildlife Council bus stop foreshadow impending doom, so luckily, our four young men arm themselves with a few weapons, including a very, very sharp fork.
Throw in a few Keystone Cops for pointed, good measure, and Doff draws up a funny and quotable escapade that clocks in at 83 minutes. This movie doesn’t stand as tall as the two previously-noted UK movies, but slews of 19-year-old boys will certainly stream “Get Duked!” on random weeknights close to 12 am. Hey, these future fans may not personally tackle the Scottish outdoor adventure challenge, but they’ll assuredly employ teamwork, orienteering, and foraging in their dorms and fraternity houses, and especially foraging, if you catch my drift.
⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Image credits: Amazon Prime; Trailer Credits: Amazon Prime Video UK