Dirty Deeds

on August 26, 2005 by Mark Keizer
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A mirthless misfire that sullies a genre with enough bad publicity, the high school comedy "Dirty Deeds" is bad in ways that other bad films can only envy. Insulting an audience that doesn't even know it's being insulted, writers Jon Land and Jonathan Thies seem to think that teen comedies are easy to write and its target audience will laugh at anything. And frankly that's probably true, but they still blow it. They've taken a menu of high school comedy clich├ęs and strung them together in a pale imitation of what a raunchy high school comedy is supposed to look, sound and feel like.

We have the sarcasm-spouting hero, the accessibly-hot heroine, the nerds, the jocks, the uptight vice principal, the clueless cop, the buzz-cut bully and the house party conducted with absentee parents (who, of course, return at the end). There's even the obligatory ending, where scrolling text reports the fate of all the characters. Quite original, if this were 1979. Today however, "American Pie" and even "Wedding Crashers" prove that the strictly lowbrow comedy is out of style, as some originality and sincerity need to shine through. "Dirty Deeds" also suffers in its quest for a PG-13, which requires that it hold back on the raunch that would have made these deeds truly dirty. Predictably, there is a lame stab at "American Pie"-style crudeness, as the vice principal eats a sandwich made from bread that's been questionably flavored.

In a high school twist on "The Twelve Labors of Hercules," Zach Harper (Milo Ventimiglia) takes on the legendary Dirty Deeds, 10 increasingly difficult tasks that must be completed between dusk and dawn on the Friday of West Valley High's Homecoming Weekend. But Zach hasn't stepped forward to tackle this mythic challenge because he wants to. He's doing it so freshman Kyle Cummings (Wes Robinson) doesn't have to. Cummings is the brother of Meg (Lacey Chabert), whom Zach is secretly in love with. Knowing Kyle will get eaten alive by the deeds, he volunteers to take his place, hoping Meg will notice his sacrifice.

The deeds start slowly ("Drink a beer in front of a cop"), then get more difficult ("Steal a car worth over $100,000"). Charting his progress is pretty much the entire student body, partying hearty in a house commandeered by nerdy undergrad Bobby (Ray Santiago). Also watching is Officer Dill (Michael Milhoan), a Dirty Deeds washout in his high school days, who is now obligated to stop Zach during his attempt.

Despite its repetitious nature, the movie avoids monotony, as characters and subplots are introduced to break up the main action. That's as high a praise as "Dirty Deeds" is going to get, since there are innumerable other flaws the film can't avoid.

Making the switch to film after years of helming TV comedy, David Kendall proves himself a listless director who provides no sense of the anarchy that these movies require. Ventimiglia is a lightweight who should do something about that lower lip, because he's always talking out of the side of his mouth. In a film replete with nothing roles, Chabert seems especially lost, with very little to grab onto. As Zach's superjock enemy who administers the deeds, Matthew Carey seems a bit feminine. The saddest part is watching Charles Durning, a wonderful, Oscar-nominated actor, slum mightily as a rifle-toting security guard.

The film's biggest (and, truthfully, only) laugh comes from seeing ex-major leaguer Todd Zeile and current steroidal slugger Jason Giambi credited as executive producers. "Dirty Deeds" is the first film from Zeile's Green Diamond Entertainment, and if this is his taste in scripts, let's hope he finds a minor league team that needs a manager. Zeile also takes the pivotal role of Mullet, a homeless man required to give the Big Speech proving that the movie is more than just a teen romp. Sure. Whatever.

If your idea of comedy is seeing an elderly school administrator walk across a room while farting, then "Dirty Deeds" is your movie. And somewhere, there may be a 14-year-old who's never seen anything so hilarious. The rest of us will continue to hope that Howard Stern finally remakes "Porky's," a film to which he owns the rights. Even the thought of that is more entertaining than "Dirty Deeds." Starring Milo Ventimiglia, Lacey Chabert and Zoe Saldana. Directed by David Kendall. Written by Jon Land and Jonathan Thies. Produced by Bill Civitella and Dan Kaplow. A Freestyle release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for crude humor, sexual content, language, teen partying/drug references and some violence. Running time: 87 min

Tags: sex, teen, coming-of-age, high school, dating, romance, crude humor, Milo Ventimiglia, Lacey Chabert, Zoe Saldana, David Kendall, Jason Giambi
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