The story behind "Dirty Work" is far more interesting than the film.
First, NBC's Don Ohlmeyer fired Norm Macdonald as "Weekend Update" anchor of "Saturday Night Live," for being "unfunny." (Rumor had it that Ohlmeyer didn't like seeing his pal O.J. Simpson skewered on the show.) Ohlmeyer then refused to air commercials for Macdonald's film during "SNL." Macdonald said it's actually a compliment to be disliked by someone who has the Juice for a close friend. Ohlmeyer then expanded his ruling to say the network wouldn't air the spots at any time, an edict that was later reversed by the network because, after all, money is money.
"Dirty Work" was directed by Bob Saget, star of "Full House" and "America's Funniest Home Videos." (He should thank his lucky stars there was never such an aversion to unfunny guys at ABC.) Saget should probably stick to projects with laugh tracks.
The film's premise is that two losers who have spent their lives "taking crap" decide to start a business to get revenge on others. They need to raise $50,000 to pay for their father's heart transplant. The money isn't for the heart or the medical care -- it's to pay off their doctor's gambling debts to keep him alive long enough to perform the surgery.
So what do these crazy kids do? They masquerade as cops to get back at some college boys they had a bar brawl with. They shave the bearded lady at the circus, hide dead fish in a mansion, put popcorn in a bulldozer's engine to stop a demolition project, and release skunks at the opera. (Saget still thinks he's working with the Olsen twins.)
Macdonald's character, Mitch Weaver, says things like "Settle down, prostitutes" and "Over here, homeless people." Either this is a new phenomenon in film (stage direction as dialogue) or the writers (Macdonald, Frank Sebastiana and Fred Wolf) were too lazy to give the characters names. This is a film in which characters actually wear the same clothes in scenes days later, so we'll remember who they are.
The "comedy" touches are misguided. When Mitch sleeps in his car, he of course wears a nightshirt and stocking hat. People urinate off buildings. Jack Warden's dirty old man lusts after the aerobics instructors on television and wears a locket around his neck containing a picture of him and Mitch's mother having sex. Chris Farley plays a barfly whose nose was bitten off by a Saigon prostitute. Are you catching the drift here? Calling it sophomoric is an insult to second-year students.
As a plot device, Mitch carries a pocket tape recorder and offers "notes to self" -- little pearls like "Note to self: Sex with blow-up doll not as good as the real thing."
There are cameos by Adam Sandler, John Goodman and Gary Coleman. Chevy Chase plays Dr. Farthing, who has an additional body cast in each successive scene as he tries to placate his bookies. He blames his predicament on "the Buffalo Bills, the Boston Red Sox and Mr. T . . . since he bet against Rocky in 'Rocky III.' " "Who knew?" he asks.
In the only funny performance, Don Rickles plays a theater owner who offers his employees motivational speeches peppered with such classic Rickles lines as "You have the personality of a dead moth." He speaks for all of us in the outtakes when he says to Macdonald, "How you got this movie I will never know."
Don Ohlmeyer may be wrong about O.J., but when it comes to Norm Macdonald, he's dead on.
Rating:* 1/2 Comedy featuring Norm Mac donald, Artie Lange, Chevy Chase and Jack Warden. Rated PG-13, now playing in area movie theaters.