A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Joe Dirt is a 2001 movie starring David Spade as a mullet-sporting janitor in search of his parents. The movie is filled with crass humor; in one scene, a dog's testicles are frozen to a porch and its scrotum is shown stretching as it attempts to free itself. Joe gets covered in human feces, is taken prisoner by a man who dresses in fishnet stockings and makeup and keeps him in a hole, and has his face burned when a cow passes gas into his face. Joe also is called a "queer" and a "retard" by bullies. A sex scene turns into a joke involving incest. There's also frequent profanity, including "s--t" and "p---y," and a misunderstanding in which Joe thinks a man with a thick Cajun accent wants to "see homos naked." Still, in spite of being treated so badly by so many people, Joe manages to maintain a positive attitude and lives by the credo, "Life is a garden. Dig it."
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What's the story?
Joe Dirt (David Spade) is a mullet-sporting, classic-rock-loving janitor who works in the offices of a Los Angeles talk radio station. He has left the only real hometown he has ever had, Silvertown, as well as the only person who has ever shown him any real kindness, Brandy (Brittany Daniel), to go on an epic search for his parents, who abandoned him at the Grand Canyon when he was a young boy. A smug and sarcastic talk radio host (Dennis Miller) takes an interest in Joe and has Joe tell him and his listeners the story of his life. Joe tells of his abandonment and all his other instances of ill fortune. Joe's fortune starts to change as listeners begin to be inspired by his ability to remain positive in spite of tremendous hardship. But he hits rock bottom when he believes that Brandy has betrayed him, until he discovers the reason for her betrayal and the real truth about his parents.
Is it any good?
It's not a great comedy by any stretch, but what keeps JOE DIRT from being just another lame movie are some of the cameos, most notably Christopher Walken and Kid Rock. These brief appearances keep the movie somewhat enjoyable and at least a little funny. Beyond this, the problem with the character of Joe Dirt is that he's little more than a mullet haircut, a collection of vintage classic-rock T-shirts, and some catchphrases. It's a collection of overdone clichés without any substance, so it's hard to determine if the audience is supposed to make fun of Joe Dirt for being an out-of-style, redneck rocker dude or to root for him because the whole world seems out to get him.
The movie wants to have it both ways: They want the audience to laugh at Joe's stupidity and bad taste in hair, clothing, cars, and music while rooting for him for going through life spouting catchphrases such as "Life's a garden. Dig it." They want humor from the character's clichés but pathos for how badly he's treated because of his clichés. The result falls short of creating a character with a third dimension, and the humor falls short along with it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about SNL cast members who go on to star in movies such as Joe Dirt. What are some other examples of comedies featuring SNL alumni? Do you think the movies are as funny as the sketches?
How is humor taken from moments of violence here? Is real-life violence ever funny?
What are some other examples of movies in which violence and "gross-out" scenes are used for the sake of humor? Why do so many people enjoy this type of comedy?
Are we supposed to laugh at Joe or feel sorry for him?
- In theaters: April 11, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: July 25, 2006
- Cast: David Spade, Brittany Daniel, Jaime Pressly
- Director: Dennie Gordon
- Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: Crude and sex-related humor, and for language.
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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