Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:33 - Released 4/11/01

When I saw the trailer for Joe Dirt, and the voiceover proudly announced, "From the makers of Deuce Bigalow," I thought, you say that like it's a good thing. As it turns out, all Dirt has in common with Deuce are a few producers (of which Adam Sandler is one), but thank goodness the creative team is entirely different, consisting of TV director Dennie Gordon and writers Fred Wolf and star David Spade. Distancing himself from the ascerbic, cooler-than-thou persona he developed in his earlier post-Saturday Night Live films, in which he mainly stood aloof and condescending opposite the outlandish antics of his now-deceased pal Chris Farley, Spade seems to be moving toward more sympathetic characters, like his part in 1999's Lost & Found. This is a much sillier film but one that achieves on about the same average level. Joe Dirt is not going to go down as one of the best comedies of the year; it is as forgettable as they come, but it has its moments, mostly thanks to Spade's clever delivery, that bring a guilty chuckle.

Joe Dirt (Spade) is a man who has made the best life he can out of a bad situation, but has survived mainly because of an optimistic spirit and a determination to see the bright side of life ("You can't get ahead if you have "No" in your heart," he proclaims). Deserted by his parents at the Grand Canyon when he was 8, he grew up on his own, surviving by working an endless string of menial jobs, and has never given up the search for his family, whose name he doesn't even know (he was given the name "Dirt" by his unsympathetic father). Now working as a janitor at an L.A. radio station, Joe is discovered by smartass talk show host Zander Kelly (Spade's fellow SNL grad Dennis Miller), who is especially intrigued by Joe's 1970s style mullet wig (which, according to Joe, was placed there when he was a child and has since grown into place permanently). We learn of Joe's life story through a continuing flashback, as he relates it live on the air to Zander's listening audience. At first, Zander and his fans make fun of Joe like most of his lifelong acquaintances, but as they learn of his never-ending search for his parents, his unrequited love for a sweet-hearted hottie named Brandy (Brittany Daniel), and the abuse he gets from a bully (pop star Kid Rock) who wants Brandy for himself, they all develop an affection for the pathetic loser, and he becomes a radio sensation.

Make no mistake: Joe Dirt, both the character and the film, is stupid. But things as they are, that may well work in its favor. With its quirky characters, silly sight gags, and the tasteless humor that has become a staple among teen comedies of late, this film will not fail to amuse its market, but Spade's comic sense and his comfort with co-stars Miller, Daniel, and Christopher Walken, who plays a key supporting role, helps edge Joe Dirt slightly above ground level. ***½

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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