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Joe Dirt

It would be easy to consider the David Spade comedy Joe Dirt mishandled by an overcautious studio, or even executive producer Adam Sandler, were it not for the fact that Spade himself has screenwriting credit — it would seem the scathing comic, who elevated "Saturday Night Live" and NBC-TV's "Just Shoot Me" into above-average small-screen fare, is unaware of his own gifts. Spade stars as the titular character, a white-trash lad who lost his parents at the Grand Canyon as a young boy and wandered the American landscape for years, trying to find his missing family. His story is recounted to talk-show host Zander Kelly (Dennis Miller), who discovers the oddball as a janitor at KXLA radio in Los Angeles and conducts a lengthy interview. As Miller peppers the narrative with arcane little zingers, we learn that young Dirt suffered a series of bizarre foster homes before hitting the road, and on his life-journey met his true love Brandy (Brittany Daniel) in the Northwest village of Silvertown; accidentally took a hot-air balloon trip to the midwest, winding up working on a oil rig; met an Indian tracker, Kicking Wing (Adam Beach), and discovered a buried atom bomb; got work as a carnie and shagged a girl who may have been his sister (Jaime Pressly); and then found work as a school janitor with a mob informant in witness-protection (Christopher Walken). To be sure, Joe Dirt has a few laughs to offer, and it's strongest when it picks a clean target and nails it — Joe's demolished Dodge Charger with multi-colored body panels and a massive tail wing is hilarious because, absurd as it may be, it's a too-common sight on the American road; similarly, the perfectly coifed mullet, sideburns, and goatee scream trailer trash without saying a word. But rather than go for the jugular, Joe Dirt opts for a sentimental story at its heart, complete with a Hollywood happy ending. Alas, comedy requires victims — the Coen Brothers Raising Arizona is a marvelous dissection of our trailer-park culture, just as This Is Spinal Tap is enormously unsympathetic to aging arena rockers and their self-important little dramas. As it stands, Joe Dirt is best recommended not for its plot, but for its supporting cast, including the wry Miller, Walken in another fun comic turn, and Kid Rock as a Trans Am-driving asshole who serves as Dirt's nemesis. Columbia TriStar's DVD offers a clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround. Features include a commentary with Spade, a second commentary with director Dennie Gordon, outtakes, deleted scenes, trailers, and notes. Keep-case.

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