With the presence of David Spade and a title like “Joe Dirt”, there’s no mistaking that you’ll get anything other than entertainment of the lowest brow. Yet that expectation doesn’t quite prepare one for just how low the film goes to not get laughs–or the film’s apparent true agenda.
The trailer’s disturbing opening images, showing a shirtless, mullet-sporting Spade in a variety of would-be provocative poses, would seem to be ample indication of how bad things get, but they barely scratch the surface. Spade’s title character is an unattractive, unwashed janitor at a Los Angeles radio station who is brought on the air by a DJ (Dennis Miller, one of the film’s few bright spots) for the sole intention of being an object of ridicule. Instead, he unwittingly creates a sensation as Joe recounts his surprisingly eventful life, which began after his parents abandoned him at the Grand Canyon when he was eight years old. Between then and settling in L.A., Joe got himself into a fair share of adventures as he searched for those absent parents–working at an alligator farm, playing with firecrackers with a Native American (Adam Beach), being named a hero after he’s credited with saving a science class from poisonous fumes, getting captured by a cross-dressing serial killer, finding and lugging around a meteorite.
Make that what he “thinks” is a meteorite, for that big ball turns out to a big mound of frozen excrement. Of course, toilet and tasteless humor in general is expected from a film like “Joe Dirt,” but Spade, co-writer Fred Wolf, and director Dennie Gordon take it to a greater, more needless extreme. A dog’s testicles get stuck to a cold floor. A septic tank strapped on Joe’s back (don’t ask) pours sewage all over his head. And, in an echo of that oh-so-memorable film of a few weeks ago, “Say It Isn’t So”, Joe beds a young woman (Jaime Pressly, who between this, “Tomcats”, and “Ringmaster”, is building such an impressive resume) who could very well be his sister.
The juvenile humor, however, is not so much a miscalculation as simple overkill; falling into the former category is the character of Joe Dirt himself. Joe’s distinctive hairdo is established early on as being a wig to protect an especially sensitive skull area. As it happens, the sensitivity extends to the rest of Joe. However vulgar he appears, Joe’s a good guy at heart who wants nothing more than to find his parents and perhaps live a life with his long-abandoned true love Brandy (Brittany Daniel), who is also courted by a more typical white-trashy guy (played by, in his acting debut, Kid Rock). For Spade, who initially made a name for himself by making snarky, sarcastic remarks on “Saturday Night Live” and has built an entire career around that persona, sensitivity is not so much a stretch as it is just about impossible. Those willing to pay nine dollars or more to see “Joe Dirt” certainly go in expecting squish, but the literal kind that gets poured on Joe’s head, not the schmaltzy figurative type designed to leave viewers with the warm fuzzies.