Dir: Dennie Gordon. US. 2001. 86mins.
Saturday Night Live alumnus David Spade who, despite many tries, has failed to front a hit movie (unlike fellow SNL-ers Adam Sandler and Mike Myers), makes another stab at a crossover with this comedy vehicle, co-written with Black Sheep and Tommy Boy collaborator Fred Wolf. Executive produced by Sandler himself, Joe Dirt is unlikely to launch Spade into the $20m-a-film club of which Sandler and Myers are members. Nevertheless, it is still an amiably crazy diversion which could be a moderate domestic hit, although it is doubtful that international audiences - hardly the target for this US-tailored product - will embrace it.
Dennie Gordon, a successful TV director whose credits include Ally McBeal, Tracey Takes On... and Dawson's Creek, makes a confident film debut, keeping the episodic ramble through the life of white trash outcast Joe Dirt moving at a brisk pace. Abandoned at the age of eight by his parents on a trip to the Grand Canyon, the hapless Dirt grows up alone, searching for his family, all the while sporting a spectacular mullet and a resolutely positive attitude. Along the way he makes friends with the girl of his dreams (Daniel), a New York mobster in the witness protection programme (Walken), a native American fireworks seller (Beach) and an alligator farm owner (Arquette).
The story is told in flashback as relayed by Dirt to abusive Los Angeles shock-jock Dennis Miller (another SNL-alumnus), who makes Dirt a national celebrity and helps him end his search for his trailer trash parents (Ward and Aaron). Armed with his catchphrase, "Life is a garden... dig it", Joe Dirt is a Forrest Gump for the new millennium - although fortunately this time the stupid protagonist is not held up as a role model. Dirt's saga is also reminiscent of Steve Martin in The Jerk; unlike Martin, however, Spade is one of those like-him-or-hate-him comics whose abrasive stand-up persona might be hard for audiences to forget when they see him on the big screen.
Among the supporting players is rap star Kid Rock, making his film debut as Dirt's rival for Daniel's affections. It is a marketing hook which again will have more benefit in the domestic market than internationally, where the performer has failed to make much of an impression.
Prod cos: Happy Madison, Robert Simonds Productions. US dist: Columbia Pictures. Int'l dist: Columbia TriStar. Exec prods: Adam Sandler, Jack Giarraputo. Prod: Robert Simonds. Scr: David Spade, Fred Wolf. Cinematography: John R Leonetti. Prod des: Perry Andelin Blake. Ed: Peck Prior. Main cast: Spade, Britanny Daniel, Christopher Walken, Erik Per Sullivan, Dennis Miller, Kid Rock, Adam Beach, Fred Ward, Caroline Aaron, Rosanna Arquette