Joe Dirt / Brian Prisco
Hangover Theater | March 14, 2008 | Comments ()
Having been raised Irish Catholic, I have a certain penitential admiration for the hangover. For all the sins I commit in the name of liquor, rather than scourging myself with some sort of iron-tipped cat-o’-nine-tails or beg of forgiveness from the Godoctopus, there comes a ready-built, pre-packaged punishment. Namely, a mouth full of cotton balls, a troupe of pink elephants dancing the samba in my cerebral cortex, and a stomach roiling like a discarded corpse offshore of Morey’s Pier. A prayer to the porcelain god is canted, and I am forced to spend my day on the couch, trying to reassemble the course of events of the night prior from scribbled-on napkins, half-filled karaoke slips, and discarded ATM and diner receipts while I recover for the coming cubicle hell that is my week.
And while some may choose a wee snort of the ol’ Hair o’ the Dog as a proper fix, I’ve always resorted to my own surefire hangover cure: a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. I would stagger into my nearest McDeath and fork over whatever crumpled bills I had remaining from my late night adventures, and then slump into one of those cheap plastic booths, choking down mouthful after greasy, slobbering mouthful. The combination of congealed fat, gooey condiments and sheer unrelenting hopelessness crash into my stomach and instantaneously become some sort of Ghostbusters trap, absorbing all the escaped spirits and ectoplasm that have collected in my gullet and sending it for disposal into the containment chamber. I do not question what laws of Science or the Occult make this happen, I merely softly belch, shuffle to my feet, and carry on with the rest of my day.
So while there were many suitable options for the next installment of Hangover Theatre, (and believe me, I contemplated deeply on Starship Troopers, having just read Ender’s Game and drawing haunting parallels) I decided to plum the dumpsters of basic cable to find a polyp of fast food quality entertainment. Normally, I would just pop on a DVD from my collection, either BASEketball or the box set of Venture Brothers, Season 1 has done the trick in the past. But this project is based on what you can watch from the safety and sanctity of your couch universally (provided you have basic American cable). And, ladies and gentlemen, there is no film that I would more universally equate to the experience of choking down half a pound of artery congesting cattle scrapings than my offering for your viewing edu-tainment, Joe Dirt (airing Saturday and Sunday nights on Comedy Central, perfect for all-day hangovers).
Before I get assaulted by katana-wielding zombie hordes or irate, taco-dip slathered commenters, let me defend my position. Joe Dirt is not a good movie. I accept this fact. The plot is laughably cobbled together from lame joke set-up to lame joke set-up like someone trying to assemble a shantytown with the remnants of “Saturday Night Live” circa the late nineties. The jokes are more fetid than a green-tinted steak served by Lunchlady Doris. The cast is comprised of a bunch of second bananas and/or lesser siblings from celebrity dynasties. Captaining this ship of fools is David Spade, one of the worst things to happen to late night television since Magic Johnson immuno-deficiented his way from cable access. In fact, you don’t even care if you see the entire film from start to finish.
And that’s precisely what makes it perfect for Hangover Theatre. You don’t want something you’re going to have to pay attention to; you want something you can nap during, wake up and continue watching without missing a portion of the plot. Now, this would either work with a movie you know verbatim (like Better Off Dead or Army of Darkness), or something you just don’t care about. But why despoil something you love when you can sit back on the couch and shower something with your scorn and derision, all the while secretly loving every minute of it. You want something where you can literally take out your brain, steep it in a glass of Alka-Seltzer, and zone out. Until recently, I had never seen Joe Dirt from start to finish in its entirety, having only ingested Dirt clumps on Comedy Central.
But far be it for me to offer up a shit sandwich without suggesting some veritable nuggets of peanuty goodness for you to take in while drooling your weekend away. I offer up things for you to occasionally ponder while taking in the heady froth of Joe Dirt. Because I suggest there are things to consider, and dare I say it appreciate, while making this your lazy faire.
First, it is meant to be appreciated ironically. While Witless Protection, Delta Farce, and … I don’t know … Running Over Critters With My Pickup, or anything else shat out by the Blue Collar crowd, are meant to be laughed with, Joe Dirt is meant to be laughed at. The Blue Collar boys expect you to chuckle along with them as they taunt foreigners and fart on each other. But everything in Joe Dirt is meant to be scorned. Joe is a joke, he’s constantly the butt of all the humor, and through the device of the shock jock DJ Zander Kelly (Dennis Miller), we’re constantly receiving nods that “Don’t worry. It’s supposed to be this stupid.” And it’s not nearly as hateful or racist. In fact, Joe’s very second friend in the world is Kicking Wing, the noble fireworks selling veterinarian Indian. Even when making jokes like “You like to see homos naked,” he still maintains that Joe’s down with the browneye. His redneck has apparently been shaded by that massive mullet he’s sporting.
Which brings me to my second point: That it’s an endearingly sweet-hearted movie at its core. Joe is an incurable optimist, on a quest to find the parents that abandoned him at the Grand Canyon. He spreads a message of love and peace and keep on keeping on. Ultimately he’s a nice guy, even when he’s getting abused by everyone around him. And even if you can’t find it in your heart to garner sympathy for David Spade in a lame-ass wig, you get the added bonus of watching David Spade get his ass kicked for most of a film. Whether it’s getting pelted with hotdogs and chili, having a septic tank emptied on his head, or getting mauled by an alligator, you can root for the hero, or root for him to get the asswhipping that he so richly deserves. It’s like watching NASCAR for the crashes.
The other thing that made this easy to swallow is the consideration that the entire story is probably bullshit. The story is told by Joe to a radio DJ who essentially mocks him the entire time. Several times, Joe embellishes the story or makes up lies for humor’s sake. Maybe none of this is true, and the entire thing is a tall tale. After all, he wanders around like some sort of Dipshit Johnny Appleseed, questing to spread his message of classic rock and positivity as he looks for the parents that left him — it’s weirdly reminiscent of Into the Wild. A young man in his 20s makes his way from town to town, finding people who love and care about him, but ultimately leaving them in his wake on this unrelenting quest for emotional and spiritual completeness, when the answer to all his troubles has been right there in front of him the whole time, but he’s too blind to see it. Except instead of dying frozen on a bus in Alaska, he drives off into the sunset surrounded by his loved ones and spraying gravel in the eyes of Kid Rock.
Which brings me to the cast, the easiest part of the movie to admire, because of the overwhelming scenery-chewing. Sometimes it’s annoying when actors decide to ham it up when everyone else around them is trying to take it seriously. But when your entire cast is so over the top it makes Sylvester Stallone’s arm hurt, it’s like watching the Golden Globes if they were sponsored by Grey Goose Vodka and Derrick’s Beer Bongs and Kegstand Emporium. Rampant, wanton destruction. You’ve got the expected cameos from the underused Kevin Nealon, and both of the living Farleys: the doppelganger and the lesser Farley (the guard at the radio station). I’m surprised fucking Rob Schneider didn’t pop up in a scene or two telling Joe “he could do it.” But then again, there was a huge poo shower, so at least he was there in spirit. You’ve got Fred Ward, Remo Fucking Williams himself, as Joe’s father. I am convinced Fred Ward and Bruce Campbell should take turns being in every movie. Rosanna Arquette, who is number three on the list of “Arquettes I Like,” playing a surly gator farm owner and pwning Jamie Pressley with her Jerry Springer trash quotient. Speaking of which, you’ve got Jamie Pressley and Brittney Daniel as the requisite hot girls, which actually questions whether Joe Dirt was what spawned “My Name Is Earl.” Kind-hearted rednecks both trying to do good while getting romantically entangled with the Queen of the Knocked-Up Trailer Park Teens herself, Jamie Pressley. Both of them also receive enlightenment from Carson Daly. Of course, Jason Lee drinks David Spade’s milkshake right up when it comes to who is the more appealing actor, children’s films aside. But still, know thy father.
And then you’ve got the three best performances in the movie, all because they are essentially doing imitations of themselves. Dennis Miller plays his slinky on the head Katherine Hepburn five-dollar rant DJ to the hilt, making me wonder how much of his dialogue was improvised, babe. Kid Rock continues the trend of musicians making smart acting choices, pretty much deciding to embrace Stanislavski and make us all understand how a musician can actually get arrested for getting into a fist fight in a Waffle House parking lot. This movie could have pretty much been Exhibit A. And then there is that darling of cinema Christopher Walken, doing the best Christopher Walken imitation I’ve ever seen. How many times have you threatened to stab someone in the eye with a soldering iron for talking in the wrong tone? I mean, his mannerisms are so blatantly stilted, it makes me wish there were a televised forensics tournament featuring Walken vs. William Shatner. Followed by Foxy Boxing, of course.
So while trying to swallow it whole may very will kill you with its badness, taken in easily digestible chunks, this movie is actually quite charming. I have at least tried to give you something to contemplate as you veg out on either Saturday or Sunday afternoon in front of Comedy Central. And if nothing else, I have given you plenty of twigs with which to burn me in effigy. Until next time, friends, go with the blessings of Godoctopus.
Brian Prisco is a warrior-poet from the valley of North Hollywood, by way of Philadelphia. He wastes most of his life in desk jobs, biding his time until he finally becomes an actor, a writer, or cannon fodder in the inevitable zombie invasion. He can be found shaking his fist and angrily shouting at clouds on his blog, The Gospel According to Prisco.