It’s amazing how relative things are. A few months ago, I was subjected to Dude, Where’s My Car? and was quite certain that movie comedy could sink no lower. Then I saw Get Over It and suddenly the subtle charms of Dude, Where’s My Car? stood out in sharp relief. Next came Joe Dirt and, yes, the merits of Get Over It shone like a beacon. Could anything possibly make me see the good in Joe Dirt? The answer was not long in coming. Co-writer/director/star Tom Green (a real triple-threat man in the worst sense) showed up offering what is perhaps the worst movie of all time. It is certainly the most pointlessly distasteful film I have ever encountered — the sort of thing you’d walk on the other side of the street to avoid and still feel like you needed a bath afterwards.
There is a plot of sorts: Green plays Gord Brody, a 28-year-old would-be cartoonist who lives in his parents’ basement because he can’t (or won’t) hold a job. Dad (Rip Torn) tries to force him into the real world via a job at the Hollywood Cheese Sandwich Factory, with predictable results. None of this really matters, at least until Green makes an inane stab at imbuing the film with a (laughable) moral. It’s merely something on which to hang a series of increasingly tasteless and stupid gags apparently designed to appeal to fans of Green’s MTV show. Of course, since this is an “R”-rated movie, Green is able to take his particular brand of … humor to new lengths. All this might be workable if the humor was truly subversive. But there isn’t much here that John Waters didn’t do almost 30 years ago. Waters, though, was a true maverick, out to shake up the establishment — to shock them into awareness. Green, on the other hand, is merely a bad little boy showing off — and more to the point, showing off with the blessing and backing of the establishment in the form of 20th Century Fox.
It’s the hollowest of hollow gestures. And what does Green serve up? A fair barometer of Green’s wit can be found in a wholly arbitrary gag that has Gordy passing by a stud farm where a horse is being prepped to perform his job. “I wanna play with the horsey!” screams Gordy, then immediately lends a hand (so to speak). This sort of gag is expanded late in the film when Gordy performs a similar function on an elephant, causing Dad to be on the receiving end of a fate usually associated with Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress. (I am not making this up!). Other moments of Green’s comedic genius include his best friend suffering a compound fracture and Green licking the bloody break; Green gutting a road-kill deer and climbing inside its skin; and Green delivering a baby, swinging it around by the umbilical cord and splattering enough blood for a Peter Jackson zombie movie. The list goes on, but this should suffice.
It’s truly embarrassing to see actors of the caliber of Rip Torn and Julie Hagerty in this thing, and even more so to read them enthusing over Green’s comedy in the film’s press kit (honestly, admitting, “hey, we got paid,” would be less offensive). Obvious signs of post-production tampering — likely a desperate attempt to salvage the film — are in evidence. An elaborate sequence involving the destruction of Rip Torn’s boat is glimpsed in the trailer, but nowhere to be found in the film’s extremely long 94 minutes. If anyone really cares, the film’s title refers to the tastelessly handled plot device of Gordy accusing his father of molesting his younger son, Freddy. In case anyone is thinking that this just isn’t a movie made for a 46-year-old, I’d like to note I saw it with an audience of 19- and 20-year-olds, two of whom asked me before the film was even over, “Is it possible for you to give this something lower than the empty seat?” I laughed exactly once — and then only because my own feelings were mirrored when, late in the film, a character holds up a sign reading, “When the fuck does this movie end?” Amen.