The Duke of Edinburgh Award is a staple of British school life, encouraging kids to experience nature in all its glory. While at the same time building individual resilience in sweaty, mud lined tents with a secret stash of alcohol and more than a few secretive fumbles in the dark. It’s fair to say that as awards go, it’s the epitome of Britishness as it dumps a group of hormonal teens in the middle of nowhere while expecting them to forgo technology in favour of an Ordnance Survey map. The bronze, silver and gold levels were primarily led by teachers and youth workers, who believed themselves to be the next Bear Grylls, with their ‘North Face’ hiking jackets concealing small flasks of gin to ward off a nervous breakdown. It is, therefore, strange that the D of E Award has not played more of a role in comedy films over the years. But Get Duked! is here to put that right with a satirical Scottish Highlands comedy full of devilish glee.
Friends Dean (Rian Gordon), Duncan (Lewis Gribben) and William or DJ ‘Beat’ root (Viraj Juneja) are not your typical A* students. In fact, they spend most of their time in detention due to pranks on fellow students and staff. However, on burning down the school toilets due to one such stunt, the boys find themselves undertaking the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award as penance. This is a final chance for the boys to modify their unruly behaviour under the guidance of Mr Carlyle (Jonathan Aris). However, the boys are entirely underwhelmed at the prospect of a weekend hiking in the Highlands and, homeschooled Ian (Samuel Bottomley) isn’t helping with his laminated tick list of activities and goals hanging around his neck.
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As Mr Carlyle leaves the boys in the middle of nowhere with instructions on how to find him at the designated camp, the prospect of hiking, farmer’s fields, and electric fences take second place to some fun. Unfortunately, poor Ian is left on the sidelines as DJ ‘Beat’ root advertises his amateur hip-hop tracks by placing stickers on every tree and rock while Dean and Duncan use chunks of the map for spliff paper. But the mayhem of their mini-adventure soon becomes deadly as a mysterious older man (who they believe to be the Duke of Edinburgh) starts hunting them down.
There is more than a dose of BBC Three’s ‘The Young Offenders‘ in writer/director Ninian Doff’s movie as expertly timed comedy carries a sharp satirical edge. Here the British class system is unceremoniously placed under the wheels of a tractor with the wild, rabbit poo-fuelled escapades of the boys filled with dried soup snorting glee. Meanwhile, local farmers indulge in hip-hop raves and the police search for missing bread. The result is a genuinely engaging and lightning-fast romp through the Scottish Highlands, filled with gags and engaging performances.
Director: Ninian Doff