It's hard to figure out just who Columbia Pictures is appealing to with Joe Dirt, a movie better suited to academics--and those who still consider themselves Surrealists--than the masses. The loose, rambling narrative will surely alienate many as David Spade plays Joe, a 'white trash' loser who relates his pathetic life story to a radio DJ (Dennis Miller), who snidely criticizes him throughout. A Greek chorus of radio listeners also comments on Joe's attempt to find the biological parents who abandoned him as a child on a Grand Canyon vacation.
On his cross-country odyssey, Joe meets a wild assortment of characters, including a fireworks salesman (Adam Beach), a mobster in-hiding (Christopher Walken), the aforementioned 'gator park' owner (Arquette), and a beautiful blonde named Brandy (Brittany Daniel). After Joe finds his parents (Fred Ward and Caroline Aaron), he realizes that he doesn't need them or even like them. Instead, Joe tries to again find Brandy, the true love of his life. Joe uses his new celebrity status from the radio broadcasts to help track her down.
Joe Dirt isn't at all funny--strange at times, yes--but not funny. Most of the humor is predicated on the belief that audiences will laugh at the misfortunes of others. This cruel schadenfreude manifests itself in several set-pieces built around Joe's pain and humiliation, including a scene where he finds himself covered in excrement, apparently an obligatory moment of contemporary screen farce.
Sad as this sounds, Joe Dirt is a gem (in the rough) compared to co-executive producer Adam Sandler's last effort, the frankly evil Little Nicky. Fortunately, Sandler makes no appearance himself this time, though he gives jobs to other "Saturday Night Live" alums.
Spade, at least, is more appealing than Sandler, even with his '80s-style mullet wig and a t-shirt that reads, 'I choked Linda Lovelace.' On the plus side, Jerry Lewis' best foil Kathleen Freeman pops up in a cameo (however brief), Kid Rock makes a convincing redneck, and there are a few snatches of '70s and '80s rock tunes, like Blue Oyster Cult's 'Burning for You.'
Still, Joe Dirt is so chaotic and silly, it seems to be a movie made by people using controlled substances for audiences also under the influence. It cannot be enjoyed any other way.