The impending Writers Guild strike has many in Hollywood quaking in their boots. They needn’t worry. If Joe Dirt is any indication, the script has become a completely superfluous element of film production. While the movie does boast writing credits for David Spade and Fred Wolf, it does not feature any of the traditional elements of a screenplay, such as plot, characterization, or intelligible dialogue. Here’s what Joe Dirt has to offer instead: a meteor comprised of frozen human feces; firecrackers inserted into a cow’s rectum; a dog with his scrotum frozen to a porch; flames shooting up a stream of urine; and everyone’s sentimental favorite, an overflowing septic tank depositing its contents on our hero’s head.
Calling Joe Dirt a four minute sketch stretched out to feature length would be an insult to the likes of Wayne’s World and The Ladies Man, both of which look like pinnacles of comedic achievement compared to this insipid drivel. As a former Saturday Night Live cast member, David Spade is to be commended for not simply resurrecting one of his old chestnuts for the feature film treatment. Unfortunately, he hasn’t bothered to come up with a new character either, just a funny haircut that exhausts its inherent giggle value shortly after the opening Paramount Pictures logo fades away. Even the thinnest SNL conception – Rob Schneider’s "makin’ copies" guy, say, or those Night at the Roxbury knuckleheads – generally has at least one memorable catchphrase or bit of business. Not Joe Dirt, unless you consider "That’s what I’m talkin’ about!" watchwords for the millennium.
So who is this mullethead? As the movie opens, Joe is working as a janitor at an L.A. talk radio station. One day he attracts the attention of DJ Zander Kelly (Dennis Miller), who brings Joe into the studio for some good old fashioned mockery and white trash baiting. At Zander’s urging, Joe relates his lame and pointless saga, which then unfolds in a series of flashbacks spackled together with a redneck rock soundtrack. We learn that Joe was abandoned as a child at the Grand Canyon and raised in a series of foster homes. We see his various attempts at tracking down his parents, which include enlisting the aid of an Indian guide, a police sketch artist and a mobster in the Witness Protection Program (a particularly psychotic Christopher Walken). We meet the love of his life, Brandy (Brittany Daniel), and his tormenter, Robby (Kid Rock). We endure countless insults heaped on his hockey-haired head, most of them unimaginative variations on those trusty warhorses, "homo" and "retard." We consult our watches frequently and with increasing agitation. During the many radio station interludes between Spade and Miller, all of which seem to have been shot in a single afternoon, we amuse ourselves by noting that ninety percent of the nation’s supply of smarm is safely contained on a single Burbank soundstage.
As co-writer and star, Spade must bear the brunt of the blame for this atrocity. Perhaps Dirt is meant to be his attempt at breaking free of his usual prissy, self-satisfied persona. After all, zippy put-downs and smug pop culture references are all well and good, but poopy jokes and nutsack gags are where the big money is. But Spade brings nothing to the party but a now-you-hear-it, now-you-don’t hillbilly accent; he lets his wig do the acting. And apparently the writing as well. There’s no point beating around the bush any longer: Joe Dirt ranks among the worst movies of this or any year. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.