Joe Dirt, by Albert W. Vogt III

When I watch some of the movies suggested to me on social media I think, “My friends and fans hate me.” Then again, Joe Dirt (2001) was put forward by my sister and I would like to think that she does not feel that way about me. At least I hope so. I do not know if she has seen the movie. If she has not, that makes her proposal more puzzling. While they apparently (bafflingly) made a sequel to this nightmare, the original is twenty years old. Given many of the tone and sensibilities of the characters, it feels like a film made in 1901, not 2001. If I have satisfied whatever lingering curiosity you might have had with this introductory paragraph, please feel free to stop reading at this point and forget its existence (but please come back for other reviews!). For me, I will struggle onward before I attempt selective amnesia.

Imagine every redneck stereotype you have ever heard of in one movie and that is Joe Dirt. I wish that was a joke. Play along as you read the summary and see if you can spot all the stereotypes. I will write how many I feel I discussed at the end. Comment below with your guess and if our numbers match I will send you an electronic hug for making it that far. The film attempts to make the title character (David Spade) sympathetic by showing him as a basically good natured person, but extremely poor. Because he is a pauper, driving to working in a barely functional vehicle (though I do not know why this is necessary as he lives in the boiler room at his place of employment), he is the subject of a lot of bullying. Often he takes the ribbing in stride, except when someone questions his masculinity because, you know, that is not the manly Southern way. His job is as a janitor at a radio station in Los Angeles, and he becomes a source of wonderment due to his appearance and behavior. He gets noticed by a producer, who brings him onto the morning drive show hosted by Zander Kelly (Dennis Miller). At first, Kelly is amazed by Joe’s trademark mullet haircut, which is actually the result of him being born without the top portion of his skull. His parents’ pitiful solution was to place a wig on the top of his head, which apparently fused in place as he get older. With that story out of the way, Kelly then begins to needle Joe about about the janitor’s background. From here, we get Joe’s life story up to how he began working at the station, and his motivation for doing it all. As a boy (Erik Per Sullivan), Joe had been left at the Grand Canyon by his parents. Now, I do not know about you, but when I was roughly twelve years old, I could remember where I stinkinlived. Not Joe Dirt, though. Hence he spends the next fifteen years or so attempting to find them, and to his (cough, hack, snort, wheeze) credit he does not blame them for his abandonment. In the process of his search, he drifts from place-to-place working odd jobs, including a stint with a traveling carnival, which he thought could aid him due to the travel. He also meets a few people who do not immediately poke fun at him, and they (unsurprisingly) comprise the supporting cast of the film. I am not going to bother describing all of them because I would rather get this done as soon as possible, but I will mention one later (incentive to keep reading?). While he relates his travels, for truly no good reason it gets people super interested in him and it becomes a segment on Kelly’s show that is stretched out over a couple days. And, forget everything he had done in his quest to find his parents because they end up calling into the show. However, when he goes to meet them, he discovers that his mom (Caroline Aaron) and dad (Fred Ward) are not the ideal he had built them up to be. Of course, they live in a hovel and dad has the same haircut as Joe’s wig, but they left him in Arizona and seemingly completely forgot about him. Devastated, Joe decides that he is going to jump off a bridge and end his life. It is only by the intervention of Brandy (Brittany Daniel), the person he had become closest to in his wanderings, that convinces him to not end his life. That makes seven, by the way, which may not seem like a lot but trust me there are more.

The scene in Joe Dirt where Joe first meets Brandy is the one where I almost gave up entirely. As he passes by a farm house, he notices a dog whimpering. The poor animal is making these sounds because, and I cringe to write this, it has its male parts frozen to the front porch deck. There follows a thoroughly loathsome sequence where Joe tries to comfort the hound while it attempts to stand up, only to cartoonishly stretch the corresponding skin. Brandy’s stereotypically air-headed solutions involves knives and other implements that would do more harm than good. All of it just . . . is not . . . funny . . . in the slightest way! I will admit to feeling my heart strings tugged most minimally when Joe is homeless, stealing food to survive, and being forced to sleep outdoors. When I see vagrants, I see Jesus, and it breaks my heart. I am not saying that such feelings are the sole purview of Christians, but it is important to look upon the less fortunate with the compassion our Faith teaches. Had the movie stuck with this tone instead of trying to make stereotypical jokes about rednecks, there might have been a better story. And I would be remiss if I did not mention the constant gay slurs. Yes, the Catholic Church does not condone homosexuality. It also does not sanction shaming others, no matter their sexual orientation. Look it up if you do not believe me. It would be a far better use of your time than watching this film. I believe that brings the total up to nine, if you are still keeping score.

In addition to not being funny, Joe Dirt adds further gasoline to the dumpster fire that it is by having a scene where it suggests that he might have had sex with his sister, a woman named Jill (Jaime Pressly). I had trouble enough with all the bullying and other tasteless attempts at comedy throughout. Even though they turn out not to be related, such moments not only take away any sympathy I might have had an inkling of for the character, but also make the film practically unwatchable. I think this is what my brain began telling me at one point as the endless cycle of dumb situations and inexplicable behaviors made it begin to shut down, and I caught myself nodding off. Save yourself the struggle and avoid this one at all costs. Final score: Joe Dirt ten, humanity negative a million.

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