Joe Dirt (2001)

joe dirt

“The ’70s called, they want their hairstyle back.”

The Scoop: 2001 PG-13, directed by Dennie Gordon and starring David Spade, Brittany Daniel, Dennis Miller, and Christopher Walken

Tagline: Life’s a garden. Dig it.

Summary Capsule: White trash goes on cross-country adventure to find lost parents

DnaError’s review: I often find myself very frustrated at movies. I can see it going wrong in front of my eyes and I just want to leap in there and set it all right, maybe give the director a few beatings before letting him ever touch a camera again. But no, I’m stuck in my little plush seat, screaming away like Homer Simpson “Stupid Movie! Be more Funny!”

Which is the exact reaction I had to “Joe Dirt.” The charming little story of a Trailer Trash – Wig Wearin’ – Acid Wash – Jean Lovin’ – Rock Concert – T-Shirt Sportin’ – Hero searching to find his parents who left him in a garbage can in the Grand Canyon.

What really maddening about the movie is that, the character is solid. American movie history is full of the lovable loser who does his own thing despite the rest of the world (Wayne Cambell, Ferris Bueller, Ash, the list goes on). So, to screw it up takes a massive lack of talent.

The plot, loose as it is, just strings the jokes together. I have no problem with this… except THEY AREN’T FUNNY. It’s nothing but low-rent gross out humor that somehow manages to be both annoying and boring. Right here, right now, we have to make a stand against these humiliation comedies where jokes and humor are thrown out just to see how badly they can hurt the main character. Stop them before another genius decides he can do it just like them thar Farrelly Brothers.

Spade is not a “gross out” comic, he’s best at verbal snarkiness and being a general jaggoff, so it’s hard to believe him as the optimistic yet downtrodden Mr. Dirt. I have nothing more to say, the worst thing a comedy can do is not be funny and “Joe Dirt” didn’t give me a solid laugh in it’s entire running time. (Okay to be fair, the scenes with Dennis Miller had a few smiles, mostly because it was two snarkmasters snarking it up. Snark. but it’s not enough). I should have been tipped off by the “Happy Madison” production title to flee the theater as fast as possible.

Justin’s rating: Just say no to the mullet

Justin’s review: I think it’s always easy to scoff at a culture that you don’t understand, especially when you feel above it. And that’s the whole premise of Joe Dirt, to laugh at so-called “white trash” living so that you can feel better about yourself. I don’t think anyone comes out looking good in this situation.

Up front, I will say that this is not a spectacular, Oscar-worthy film, nor did it even make me laugh that much. I’d even go as far to put it as a sub-average endeavor for David Spade (who’s just lost without a capable co-star). But the reason this is so is because instead of this film taking easy pot shots at trailer trash lifestyles, it actually makes a likable hero that we can’t laugh at so much.

Joe Dirt (Spade) is a hick who tries incredibly hard to be the tough baccy-spittin’ stud. It’s a good front, complete with patchy facial hair and a mullet wig that cannot be removed, but it doesn’t hide the fact that Joe is basically a good-hearted wimp in torn sleeves clothing.

The film follows his quest across the country (and its many trailer parks) to find his parents, who left him at the Grand Canyon as a child. He works an oil rig, eats lunch off a pile of frozen airline turds, befriends a mangy mutt, and eventually ends up in the hands of a sarcastic DJ, who verbally jabs at Dirt while getting his life story.

All of the places he visits and events he experiences are true in the spirit of the film, but it doesn’t work from a comedic standpoint, since Joe Dirt is one of them, not an outsider like the movie audience. If Dirt was a mean loser, perhaps it might have been funnier to see him fail so much. Or if David Spade was his usual sarcastic self, tearing apart the country community with wit and slams. But Spade makes Joe into a likable fellow, constantly optimistic and unusually nice for such a role. I might not have laughed as much, but by the end of the movie I did desire to see Joe Dirt find his happiness.

If you’re expecting a scathing exposé into the world of white trash, Joe Dirt just doesn’t have the heart to be that mean. Maybe it taught me a bit of a lesson in humility and understanding a different culture, but it also never quite explains those burning questions, such as what is up with thinking mullets and rat tails an attractive hairstyle, or the true fascination with those darn yard tires.

Kyle’s rating: Dennis, read the scripts better, okay?

Kyle’s review: I like David Spade (preferably with short hair) and I like Dennis Miller (he so funny!) so I knew eventually I would have to see this movie. Since it appeared to be a Saturday Night Live film (though it was SNL-free) I figured I could wait to rent it, as we all know how well SNL-type ideas translate to the big screen. So I waited to rent it. I think I spent $1.62. I should have bought gum.

I’m serious. This movie was painful. My parents watched it with me, expecting at least a modicum of laughter, and like an alien episode of The X-Files we all experienced odd time distortions. 90 minutes seemed to stretch into days, each individual scene was like 30 minutes long, and it got to the point where I was sure this movie was never going to end and we would all die watching it. Part of me didn’t mind, though I was hoping my eyeballs would decay sooner rather than later. This movie is bad. There is some humor to be found in Miller’s radio rants and digs at Joe, but the rest is either so predictable or idiotic it would be too much effort to muster any laughter even if you were related to a star of this film and they were in the room with you.

I don’t understand. All these supposed comic geniuses come together on a film and the only highlights are when Lord Christopher Walken is speaking? That’s insanity! I think some nefarious force squeezed the humor and zest out of each copy of Joe Dirt and must therefore have a big-ass batch of laughter nitro somewhere. Give us all a hit of that, please! We could use it after Joe Dirt!

For the love of all that is holy, don’t watch this movie. People who say it was funny are lying to you and probably receive some kind of royalty for each viewing. It’s not Doom Generation bad, but it’s quite mind-kickingly bad. Don’t bother; rewatch Tommy Boy instead. It’s better!

Have fun deleting that image from your mind.
Have fun deleting that image from your mind.


  • Originally titled “The Adventures of Joe Dirt”, they used those yellow “Caution When Wet” floor signs as promo items.

Groovy Quotes

DJ: The 70’s just called… they want their hairstyle back!

Joe Dirt: Things are gonna happen for me, I’m Joe Dirt!

Joe Dirt: I’m a rocker through and through. Here’s a list of my favorite bands: AC/DC, Van Halen not Van Hagar, Skynyrd, Def Leppard….

Robby: You alright Dirt?
Joe Dirt: Yeah, I’m cool.
Robby: No you’re not.

Joe Dirt: Life’s a garden, dig it?

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Tommy Boy
  • Black Sheep
  • PCU

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