Dirty Work (1998) – Review

2 Stars

After the massive success of former SNL cast members Mike Meyers, Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy, and Chris Farley, it was finally Norm Macdonald’s turn to headline a feature film. Dirty Work is the ensuing product and it’s perfectly inline with Macdonald’s off centered comedy stylings. You get the feeling that this low-budget comedy directed by Bog Saget flew under the radar during production with little studio interference. It’s the closest thing to pure unadulterated Norm Macdonald that you’re likely to see outside of a stand-up performance.

As childhood buddies, Mitch Weaver (Norm Macdonald) and Sam McKenna (Artie Lange) were responsible for a serious of pranks and stunts that gained the pair notoriety in their neighborhood. Now, as adults Mitch and Sam are losers with little hope of raising $50,000 to pay for a medical operation to save Sam’s dad, affectionately nicknamed Pops (Jack Warden). While suffering in the hospital, Pops confides that, because of his youthful sexual prowess, he is also Mitch’s father. So, Mitch and Sam decide to go into business for themselves to get the cash needed to save Pops.

The duo open a revenge-for-hire business, and are paid to embarrass, destroy, and deface people, possessions, and buildings across the city. Things are rolling along and money is coming in, but Mitch falls for a woman named Kathy (Traylor Howard). She is related to the landlord of a structure that Mitch is paid to vandalize, only so unscrupulous property developer Travis Cole (Christopher McDonald) can turn the space into a luxurious opera house. Realizing they have been used, Mitch and Sam plot their revenge on Cole, using a secretly recorded conversation to set up an elaborate gag designed to incriminate the developer on live TV.

Dirty Work in best in it’s early scenes. There is a playful crudeness that is deserted after the opening ten minutes, and the film turns into a rote exercise in nineties troupes. I’m not sure why comedies from this era always feature a female love interest inserted into the plot to serve as a nagging, parental-figure that sparks a change in the lead character. This archetype can be found in comedies ranging from Half-Baked, Billy Madison,Black Sheep, Deuce Bigalow, etc.. Why cast a vicious comedic presence in a film only to surround him with characters in a story about shedding his viciousness? It’s a circular question, but worth asking when consuming mediocre fare like Dirty Work.

Director: Bob Saget
Stars: Norm Macdonald, Jack Warden, Artie Lange, Traylor Howard, Don Rickles, Christopher McDonald, Chevy Chase

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