Release Date: June 12, 1998
Director: Bob Saget
Writers: Norm MacDonald, Frank Sebastiano & Fred Wolf
Starring: Norm MacDonald, Jack Warden, Artie Lange, Traylor Howard, Chevy Chase, Christopher McDonald
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
Hello, readers! I’m back after a short break from writing the ‘Larry Cohen Tribute Special’ for the month of May. I want to thank all of you who took the time to read and comment on each of the movies I showcased. I put a lot of work into it and I hope you enjoyed reading them. It’s a great send off to a great filmmaker. Now that the special has concluded, I will be resuming doing reviews of more ‘Guilty Pleasure’ movies. I have a huge lineup of movies I plan on reviewing in the mere future including the ‘50th Review’ which should be coming up this summer (I will keep you posted on that detail).
For now, I wanted to kick off the post tribute special review with a little comedy. 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 contraire). 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, cringeworthy moments and even a lightweight love story. It’s an interesting concept by MacDonald which I’m sure came from the idea of wanting to give NBC the finger (this was made before MacDonald would be fired). 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. He’s a smartass and seems to be the intelligent one when it came to the idea of the business and the methods on how to screw over the people they were hired to screw over. There are times in the movie where he is repeating the same jokes such as brining 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. It’s one of the funnier roles for Chevy that I’ve seen in a very long time. 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 in true Chris Farley fashion goes nuts when people bring that up to him and Don Rickles playing a movie theater manager who insults Lange’s weight and follows it up by insulting MacDonald’s “personality” (which was improvised brilliantly by Rickle). 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 benefitted 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. Some of the pranks range from being ingenious to just downright bizarre. Others are just plain mean like something a school bully would do to the kid her or she would be harassing. 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!
- 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
Don’t Take No Crap From Nobody
Didn’t Make It On Time
Sorry For Being A Creepy Old Man
Two Kinds Of People
If I Were A Betting Man
We Lied On Our Resumes
Don’t Mess Up
Revenge For Hire Business
Dead Hooker In The Trunk
There’s The Saigon Whore
Note To Self
Note To Self 2
In The Land Of Skunks
Remember When You Said This?