Release Date: June 12, 1998
Director: Bob Saget
Writers: Norm MacDonald, Frank Sebastiano & Fred Wolf
Starring: Norm MacDonald, Jack Warden, Artie Lange, Taylor Howard, Chevy Chase, Christopher McDonald
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
Hello, readers! For this edition of “Guilty Pleasure Cinema” I wanted to dive into another comedy film. A comedy starring one of the more underrated comedians of the 90s. A man who got fired from Saturday Night Live because one of the executives at NBC claimed he was “not funny.” (on the contra-ire). I’m talking about Norm MacDonald. If you’re not familiar with Norm MacDonald, his comedy is brutally outspoken opinions that is delivered in a sarcastic monotone delivery. He was known on Saturday Night Live as the “Weekend Update” anchor, who would start the beginning of the skit with, “Here’s the fake news!” (sound familiar?) MacDonald was known on “Weekend Update” for his constant bashing of Bill Clinton and O.J. Simpson. After being dismissed from SNL, he would go on to star in his first comedic outing, 1998’s Dirty Work!
In Dirty Work MacDonald plays Mitch Weaver, a down and out loser. After being fired from his fourteenth job in two months and his girlfriend kicking him out of their apartment, he goes to live with his best friend, Sam McKenna (Artie Lange) and his dad, whom they refer to as ‘Pops’ (Jack Warden). During a night watching television Pops has a heart attack and is in the hospital. The treating physician, Dr. Farthing (Chevy Chase) informs Mitch and Sam that Pops needs a heart transplant and needs $50,000 for the transplant. Mitch and Sam do various odd jobs to get the money. After an event at their jobs where they were paid by their co-workers to embarrass their boss, they start a revenge for hire business called “Dirty Work!” Their concept is for people to pay them to do their dirty work. With this new business they hope to raise the funds in time and save Pop’s life.
Not only is this Norm MacDonald’s first leading role, this is the directorial debut of Bob Saget (yes, THAT Bob Saget). Together they create a movie that has plenty of sleazy jokes, cringe-worthy moments and even a lightweight love story. It’s an interesting concept by MacDonald which I’m sure came from the idea of getting revenge on NBC. It has a feel similar to “National Lampoon’s Animal House!”
MacDonald holds up good as the lead in this movie. He’s pretty much playing himself. There are times in the movie where he is repeating the same jokes such as bringing out a tape recorded and dictating a, ‘Note to Self’. You get the idea after a few of them. Some of the revenge schemes are bizarre in nature, but the purpose is to get rid of the nuisance that their client is paying them to do.
The rest of the cast has some familiar faces. Legendary actor Jack Warden who plays Pops chews up the scenes he’s in with his twist of humor and dirty mind. Chevy Chase plays the aloof and gambling addict Dr. Farthing. When you hear about some of the things he’s gambled on, it makes you want to shrug your shoulders and raise your hands in disbelief. Traylor Howard, best known for being in the sitcoms Two Guys & A Girl aka Two Guys, A Girl & A Pizza Place and Monk plays Kathy who would become Mitch’s love interest after meeting in a bar. She finds him funny and witty but is not amused when his business starts getting noticed. Christopher McDonald, best known for playing Shooter McGavin in Happy Gilmore plays local real estate mogul Travis Cole who hires Mitch and Sam to get revenge on a rival. My favorite performances in the movie are the small special guest appearances from Chris Farley who plays Jimmy, a barfly that had his nose bitten off by a prostitute and Don Rickles playing a movie theater manager. Look out for cameos from Gary Coleman, Adam Sandler and John Goodman as well.
The weakest performance by far is Artie Lange as Sam. He’s not very funny and seems to be concerned about the things Mitch is doing to gain money. Not only that, but his desperate attempt to get noticed by women is repetitive. Norm would’ve benefited more by having an experienced actor play his best friend.
The comedy in the movie is a blend of physical jokes and MacDonald’s stand up puns. The majority of their jobs that they do for their clients are downright criminal although they seem to get away with it. This movie would not be made in today’s world. The movie clocks in at an hour and twenty-three minutes, which is pretty short for a comedy movie, but there’s no moment that seems to drag out.
There’s not much more I can say about this movie without spoiling it, but if you were a fan of the 90s Saturday Night Live or a fan of Norm MacDonald, I recommend Dirty Work! I give the film props for coming up with something that has never been done before, a revenge business comedy. It’s almost as if this movie is in its own category since there hasn’t been a revenge comedy in recent memory. And if you watch this movie and don’t enjoy it, then you can pay someone to do your dirty work on me!
Trivia (Per IMDB)
- Chris Farley’s last film, but he wasn’t included in the credits.
- This movie came out a few months after Norm MacDonald was fired from Saturday Night Live (1975). When it was out in theaters, none of the shows on NBC were allowed to advertise it.
- Howard Stern was offered a cameo appearance as Satan, but turned it down. Adam Sandler ended up with the role.
- In the scene where Mitch (Norm MacDonald) and Sam (Artie Lange) are getting berated by Mr. Hamilton (Don Rickles), Don Rickles started ad-libbing insults. At one point, Don Rickles started insulting Norm McDonald, and not his Mitch Weaver character. This, of course, didn’t make it into the film, but the “baby gorilla” line, directed towards Sam, was used.
- According to Chevy Chase, he was impressed by the original script’s raunchy, R-rated, “over the top” tone (particularly a filmed, but ultimately cut, gag involving MacDonald and Lange delivering donuts that had been photographed around their genitals), and went so far as to tell MacDonald and Lange to not allow any changes. However, the studio insisted on a PG-13 rating, and re-scheduled the film’s release from February to June, where it fared poorly against blockbusters like Godzilla (1998). Unfortunately, no alternate scenes had been shot, and the dialogue could only be changed with the actor’s re-recording their lines. This may explain why some of the dialogue is dubbed in certain scenes.
- Julia Sweeney plays Mitch’s deceased mother in a still photograph.