Dirty Deeds (United States, 2005)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Dirty Deeds boasts a passably entertaining idea that is butchered in the telling. The underlying premise offers the opportunity for some Animal House/American Pie/Revenge of the Nerds-style entertainment, but the unfunny screenplay and inadequate direction turn this into a predictable and depressing experience. One needs look no further than The 40 Year Old Virgin, also currently playing in theaters, to see how to do a raunchy comedy properly. Dirty Deeds, on the other hand, is a handbook of how to do it wrong.

Problem #1 is evident. This movie is rated PG-13. Imagine Animal House or Revenge of the Nerds with a PG-13 rating and you get an idea of the kinds of compromises necessary to allow teenagers into this movie. There are a couple of scenes that cry out for nudity, but it can't happen. There are certain genres in which viewers have a right to expect gratuitous toplessness, and Dirty Deeds belongs to one. Depriving an audience of bare breasts is not going to go over well. But that's the price that goes with neutering an obviously R-rated concept to fit into a PG-13 slot.

Nevertheless, if it's any comfort, full frontal nudity by every female participant wouldn't have saved Dirty Deeds. The film is crammed with broad humor that is almost never funny, stock characterizations, plot holes, and bad acting. This is easily the worst high school situated motion picture since a few people decided upon the misguided course of remaking 1987's Can't Buy Me Love as 2003's Love Don't Cost a Thing.

Dirty Deeds offers the grandmother of all fart jokes. An old lady has an attack of flatulence that goes on for about 30 seconds before she lets out a sigh of relief. Unless you're a seven-year old, this kind of thing is more tedious than amusing. Then there's the scene in which the hero uses a loaf of wheat bread as a masturbatory tool. Later, someone is shown delightedly munching on a sandwich made from that bread. There may be a certain irony to this, but is it funny? The filmmakers think it's hilarious - they drag out the episode to extraordinary lengths. Movies like Dirty Deeds are supposed to be in bad taste - but that's only excusable if they're funny, which isn't the case here.

The "dirty deeds" are a legend at West Valley High. A series of off-color challenges that must be completed during the night before Homecoming Day, the "dirty deeds" have only been completed once, and the name of the student is legendary. Now, Zach (27-year old Milo Ventimiglia playing an 18-year old) has decided that the only way to win the heart of smarty-pants Meg (Lacey Chabert) is to complete all ten dirty deeds. The school is divided into two cliques: jocks and everyone else. The jocks do what they can to prevent Zach from succeeding, throwing impediments in his way at every turn. (Why? Because movie jocks are always boorish kill-joys, that's why.) Everyone else is rooting for him, and someone is throwing a wild party to celebrate the event. Meanwhile, Zach also has a couple of dumb cops to deal with, as well as a pissed-off security guard (played by a slumming Charles Durning).

How dirty are the deeds? One calls for drinking beer in front of a police officer. Another requires that the contestant acquire the bra of a homecoming queen. A body has to be stolen from a morgue. A bully has to be punched in the face. And so on… Nothing daring or extraordinary, yet, done right, it's easy to see how the movie could have been diverting. But little about this movie is "right." The acting is stiff and unconvincing, and there isn't a hint of a spark between Zach and Meg.

Dirty Deeds was produced by Green Diamond Entertainment, a company formed by a group of major-league baseball players (including Todd Zeile and Jason Giambi, who are credited as executive producers). The film reveals two things. First, these multi-millionaires didn't pour a lot of their salaries into the movie - it looks cheap and amateurish (maybe because director David Kendall's previous experience behind the camera was working on about a dozen TV series). Secondly, hitting a home run in baseball is a lot different than hitting one at the box office. Dirty Deeds is the movie equivalent of a three-pitch whiff.

Dirty Deeds (United States, 2005)

Run Time: 1:33
U.S. Release Date: 2005-08-26
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity, Drugs, Sexual Situations, Violence)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1