Dirty Work (1998) — Norm Macdonald’s underrated comedic masterpiece

“Look, it’s kinda embarassing being physically afraid of a 100 year-old man who just had a coronary.”

Justin’s rating: Fish as far as the eye can smell

Justin’s review: Comedies are almost certainly doomed to quick deaths in the theater, because the common response is, “I’ll see it on video.” And so many, many sad people have missed this wonderful flick, Dirty Work, which was perhaps the funniest of Summer 1998. Even though there were just six of us in the theater when I went, all of us were laughing so hard that we missed some parts.

Dirty Work was really Norm Macdonald’s one shot at headlining a movie, and I think he chose wisely. The script plays to his strength as a sarcastic wordsmith with an unusual style of delivery. He’s seriously one of the smartest comedians on the circuit, and even if this film is all about the dumb humor, it’s Norm’s intelligence that guides it to hitting every funny bone in your body.

The premise of the film is as stupid as it is perfectly ’90s. Mitch (Macdonald) and Sam (Artie Lange) start a revenge-for-hire business to raise money for a Sam’s dad to get a heart transplant. Why revenge-for-hire? It’s all the guys know how to do, and it takes us into bizarre situations such as pranking mobsters and crashing a car dealership’s commercial. It’s one gut-busting funny scene after the other into the realms of pure ridiculousness.

It’s also one of the last movies where Chris Farley appeared (as a guy with a half of a nose), where Jack Warden beats the crud out of people from his death bed, and where Chevy Chase gets a delightful turn as a dorky. There’s even a cameo from Adam Sandler and Gary Coleman that I won’t spoil, but it fits in perfectly.

Dirty Work isn’t sophisticated comedy, and if you loathe Norm Macdonald, you best stay far, far away. But for the rest of us who admire his comedic talent and would like to viscerally live through his revenging, it’s a great way to pass an afternoon.

Kyle’s rating: They say when you look into the abyss, the abyss looks back. They’re right.

Kyle’s review: You know, I really thought I had reviewed Dirty Work a long time ago. But it makes sense that I veered clear of it, because viewing Dirty Work is like looking into a mirror. That’s right: I am practically Norm Macdonald! Except he has a sitcom and I have a 12-speed bike!

Dirty Work is fairly close to the usual events of my life. I make little notes to myself (NOTE TO SELF: stop revealing to people that I am similar to Norm Macdonald), I am very good at revenge, and often blonde women will find themselves strangely attracted to me despite me not being that attractive and mistaking their grandmothers to be the local pimp. If you want a special insight into the Mutant Correspondent Kyle (Klye to my friends), look no farther than the Kyle-centric film Dirty Work. And ladies, if you’ve got a thing for Norm but can’t afford the rigors of dating a celebrity, hey, I’m practically Norm! Date me!

If you aren’t interested in me but you are interested in maybe seeing this movie, I recommend it. I quote Paul Simon: “I should be depressed. My life’s a mess. But I’m having a good time.” That sums up the existence of Mitch Weaver (Norm!). He can’t hold down a job, his girlfriend jump dumped him, and all he’s got in the world is his best friend (who is fat in a funny way) and his best friend’s dad who has always been a sort of dad to Mitch, albeit in a scary sort of way.

But when his best friend’s dad falls ill, all sorts of torrid secrets come out and then Mitch and his fat friend have to come up with lots of money to save the dad! Can they do it! Will their solution be to open a revenge-for-hire agency and get paid to pay back evil dudes on behalf of the downtrodden? Will they do stupid things but then do one big good thing that ultimately redeems them and makes everyone, including the 70%-hot Traylor Howard, love them? Yeah, yeah, of course. What did you expect?

Oh, Chris Farley and hookers figure heavily into the plot in mysterious and surprising ways, just like in real life.

Look, if you dig Norm you can find enough in this to like, but if you hated Norm when he was doing Weekend Update STAY AWAY! There is a general moral to SNL-inspired movies: if you liked the film’s featured SNL player when they were on SNL, you’ll like the movie. Though if you don’t Norm, I can’t date you. Sorry.


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