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Lowdown, Laugh-Poor 'Dirt'

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 13, 2001


    'Joe Dirt' David Spade takes the mullet look to new heights in "Joe Dirt." (Columbia Pictures)
About David Spade's "Joe Dirt," the comedian's dismal attempt to make an adorable, franchise-spawning, mullet-haired, redneck character named, yep, Joe Dirt, I gotta say this: no dang good.

Hey, I like David Spade and all. Loved him as the grumpy cartoon emperor in "The Emperor's New Groove" who says "No touchy!" But "Joe Dirt" is all failed concept and misfired comedy. It's up on bricks and dripping oil. If there's any lasting, funny moment, I'd have to point to the lopey-dopey run Joe Dirt does, which suggests his jeans and T-shirt are so starched he can hardly move his limbs.

Other than that . . .

The story, a sort of trailer-park "Forrest Gump," is about a janitor (Spade) who stumbles into the guest booth of radio shock jock Zander Kelly (Dennis Miller) and becomes a big joke to L.A. radio listeners. Well, a joke in the minds of co-writers Spade and Fred Wolf, perhaps. We in the audience aren't half as engrossed in Joe's comically touching anecdotes as those radio listeners – played by unconvincing movie extras.

It seems Joe D. was 8 years old when he lost his parents in 1975 at a Grand Canyon tourist stop. Since then, he's been his own guy, wearing acid-washed jeans, listening to Skynyrd and sporting the hideous mullet (a wig over a disfigured skull) that, as Kelly suggests, makes him look like Jane Fonda in "Klute." He dreams of finding Mom and Dad. And his quest, in successive radio guest appearances with Kelly, supposedly charms a nation with such personal mottoes as "Negativity's puke, don't eat it."

Does he find his folks? Apparently America cares. We don't.

This isn't to say there aren't sputters of chuckles here and there. Spade has a sort of comic confidence that outmuscles the role he's in. But all too often, the going is grody rather than funny (there's a whole lot of cheap, gross-out stuff), and sorta okay rather than flat-out hilarious. You want him to be funny, but when you're trying to help, that's not a good sign.

The guest stars are less than comically persuasive, to put it mildly. Miller's nasty Kelly, despite being a font of colorful white-trash zingers, is never that funny. An uncredited Rosanna Arquette makes a dull, rather than zany, crocodile trainer (one of Joe's colleagues in his "adventurous" life), Kid Rock's a so-so redneck rival for the heart of Joe Dirt's true-love Brandy (Brittany Daniel), and even Christopher Walken's walk-on as a likably crazed (of course) janitor feels flat and contrived.

Which leaves us, pretty much, with dirt.

"Joe Dirt" (PG-13, 91 minutes) – Contains obscenity, major gross-out material, slapstick violence and sexual situations.


Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company

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