Joe Dirt

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Joe Dirt

It would seem that former Saturday Night Live cast members have come up with a new plan for making the transition to film: Instead of starring in vehicles based on SNL characters, they now create characters that could have originated on SNL, and construct vehicles around them. Adam Sandler has led the charge: What are Happy Gilmore or The Waterboy's Bobby Boucher, after all, if not catchphrase-magnets in search of skits to call home? It's no surprise that Sandler served as executive producer on Joe Dirt, a vehicle for fellow SNL alum David Spade, who discards his wise-guy shtick in favor of a mullet-sporting, muscle-car-driving hard-luck case who lives in a janitor's closet adorned with Def Leppard posters and dreams of reuniting with the parents he lost at the Grand Canyon years ago. What might seem at first like an excuse for class disdain comes tempered with a lot of unexpected sentimentality. As a framing device, Spade tells his life story to sarcastic, Howard Stern-like disc jockey Dennis Miller, countering his white-trash jokes with a healthy amount of self-respect. On one hand, Spade has made an admirable choice by refusing to turn Joe Dirt, which he co-wrote with former SNL writer Fred Wolf, into one long trailer-park gag. On the other, it kind of kills the comedy when a movie covers its protagonist in feces in one scene and insists on his inner dignity in the next, a problem especially prevalent in Joe Dirt's cloying finale. Though amiable enough, and probably the only film ever to feature a confrontation between Christopher Walken and Kid Rock (making his film debut as Spade's Bachman Turner Overdrive-loving nemesis), it needs a lot more to make it worth recommending, like a character that doesn't beg interruption by station breaks and musical guests. Or jokes that work.

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