April 20, 2001

Dirt Poor

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Joe Dirt, the latest from director Dennie Gordon, is at its core the archetypal search for one man’s home. Surrounding that core, however, is a ring of inconsistency and vulgarity that ultimately envelop the inner meaning and contributes to the creation of an overall waste of a movie.

The film relates the story of Joe Dirt (David Spade) through a radio talk show narration hosted by the mocking Zander Kelly (Dennis Miller). Joe has had an interesting life — left behind by his family at the Grand Canyon at the tender age of 8, he has been on his own for most of his life, attempting to reunite with his long-lost parents. This is harder than it sounds, even though Joe’s surname Dirt is unique to himself. Preferring the pronunciation “DEER-TAY,’ Joe had earned it at birth from his father for some ill-explained reason. In any case, Joe tells Zander and all of Los Angeles of his many adventures, his trials and tribulations, and the people he encounters on his journey to find his family. These characters range from the borderline-normal, love interest Brandi (Brittany Daniel) to the enigmatic ex-mobster Clem (Christopher Walken).

Although Joe Dirt attempts humor, it simply doesn’t succeed, mainly because of its crude nature. This includes the catalyst for Joe and Brandi’s first meeting, a situation involving Brandi’s dog Charley. In the chill of the night Charley has been plagued with a peculiar problem involving his reproductive organs – just imagine what can happen to a tongue when it sticks to a cold surface in the winter and you’ve got the idea. This scene may have potentially approached the realm of humor, had the filmmakers not found it necessary to include ample footage of the dog stretching his genitalia to unusual lengths in an attempt to get free.

In addition, that ubiquitous staple of modern comedy, fecal matter, makes its all-too anticipated cameo appearance in Joe Dirt not once, but twice. First a huge chunk of the stuff falls from an airplane, a frozen orb of egested airline food which Joe promptly adopts, thinking it to be a lucky meteorite. In the second fecal-related gag, it spews from an old septic tank, completely (and predictably) covering our luckless hero. When will Hollywood writers realize that this sort of scatological humor isn’t funny, but just plain disturbing?

As Joe somberly stands before what he discovers to be his parents’ home (now abandoned), a random passerby assures him that “Home is where you make it.” However, due to a speech impediment, Joe interprets the message to be a crude comment about the passerby’s private life. This very scene is a microcosm of the film itself. The film’s message — that home is indeed where you make it — is there, but it just comes out all wrong, as it is shrouded by the illogic, dwarfed by gross spectacle, and covered in a lot of poop.

Archived article by Adam Cooper