Created by Norm MacDonald and Frank Sebastiano
“Note to self…Learn how to fight.”
— Mitch to his pocket recorder, after getting the crap kicked out of him in a bar fight
This 1998 vehicle for Saturday Night Live refugee Norm MacDonald would have played out as a spoof of TV’s Vengeance Unlimited, except that they were both almost assuredly in pre-production at the same time — and Vengeance Unlimited never really became successful enough to generate a parody.
And yet, the premise could have worked.
Losers MITCH WEAVER (MacDonald), and his pal, Sam (Artie Lange), find themselves in dire need of $50,000–fast! Seems Sam’s dad (Jack Warden) desperately needs an operation. Lacking any real skills, they decide to go into the revenge-for-hire business. Which makes them sorta like private eyes in reverse, I guess.
Revenge in this case being mostly pranks, such as planting hookers in cars, shaving the beard off a bearded lady from the circus or filling up houses with rotting fish.
Unfortunately, it’s the typical sort of SNL fare the plagued the era: some clever and actually witty gags left to drag on (and on), surrounded by a lot of shock-and-awe juvenile humour (mostly about prostitutes) and plenty of star-studded mugging for the camera from a whole slew of ringers, including fellow SNL alumni Chevy Chase, Adam Sandler and the late Chris Farley, as well as Don Rickles and Gary Coleman, all directed by Bob (TV’s Funniest Home Videos) Saget.
Still, it has its moments. The running gag of Mitch’s dictating self-memos into a small pocket recorder is quite funny, even if the actual comments vary from hilarious (the quote above) to tiresomely crude gratuitousness (below), which no doubt helped it earn it a PG-13 rating for crude sexual humor and language (although apparently they were trying for an R).
Ironic, that, since thirteen seems to be the sweet spot demographic for so much of the film. It was–not surprisingly–generally panned by (adult) critics, and didn’t fare particularly well at the box office, or in subsequent video sales or rentals.
Me? I liked the idea and I always liked the sense of smarmy desperation, flop sweat and manic unpredictability that MacDonald made his own, but I thought the film itself could have been a lot sharper.
The film does have its defenders, though. Back in the day, Max Allan Collins said “If you haven’t seen it, you shouldn’t take the word of those idiotic critics: Dirty Work is hysterically funny, at least for those among us who appreciate Norm MacDonald’s deadpan black humor. I understand that people aren’t supposed to like this movie–that doesn’t stop it from being the funniest movie I saw last year… In addition to Norm being great in it, it represents Chris Farley’s last film role and is an extremely funny postscript to his too short career. Dirty Work defines political incorrectness, as witness the single funniest scene in the picture, which involves prison rape. Both my wife and teenage son are in complete agreement with me, and we plan to have a Dirty Work party (as soon as the laser disc arrives) to determine once and for all which of our friends actually have senses of humor.”
- “Mass consumption of beer prior to viewing may help this film, but it’s not worth the hangover.”
— Roger Ebert
- “If you liked Tommy Boy, or Happy Gilmore, or Wayne’s World or Billy Madison or any other SNL-inspired movie, you’ll love Dirty Work.”
— Brandon’s Movie Reviews
- “Note to self: remember to get ass wart cream for giant wart on my ass.”
- “Note to self: Making love to blow-up doll is not as good as advertised.”
- “Note to self: Remember no matter how bad life gets, there is always beer!”
- Bearded Lady: Hey, baby. You ever had a chick with a beard before?
Mitch: Can’t say that I have there, bearded broad.
Bearded Lady: Well, then, sugar, you haven’t lived.
Mitch: Note to self: I don’t want to live.
- DIRTY WORK | Buy this video | Buy this DVD | Watch it now!
Tagline: It’s sick. It’s dirty. It’s their job.
Written by Norm MacDonald and Frank Sebastiano
Directed by Bob Saget
Produced by Steve Beswick and Jeff Prettyman
Starring Norm Macdonald as MITCH
and Artie Lange as SAM
Also starring Jack Warden, Traylor Howard, Don Rickles, Christopher McDonald, Chevy Chase, Chris Farley, Gary Coleman , Ken Norton, John Goodman, Adam Sandler, Bradley Reid, Matthew Steinberg, Uni Park, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Fred Wolf
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.