Milo Ventimiglia …. Zach Harper
Lacey Chabert …. Meg
Charles Durning …. Victor Rasdale
Matthew Carey …. Lawton
Alex Solowitz …. JD Riplock
Zoe Saldana …. Rachel Buff
Billy L. Sullivan …. Stash
Tom Amandes …. VP Fuchs
Michael Milhoan …. Officer Dill
Mark Derwin …. Vincent Scarno
Ray Santiago …. Bobby D
Michael Sullivan …. BJ
Danso Gordon …. Biggs
Arielle Kebbel …. Alison
Erin Torpey …. Jen
It’s really terrible when a film ends up looking as if it’s a parody of the genre it’s a part of. Take for instance the Steven Seagal vehicle Exit Wounds. The film, co starring DMX and Tom Arnold, was so ridiculous and uninspired that it seemed closer in nature to The Naked Gun than it did to Seagal’s best films, such as Under Siege and Above the Law. This is the same problem that hampers Dirty Deeds, the new Teen Comedy directed by David Kendall and executive produced by Jason Giambi (yes, that Jason Giambi) and former Major Leaguer Todd Zeile.
The film stars Milo Ventimiglia as Zach Harper, a promising, yet underachieving student, who could be the smartest student at West Valley High, but is content to “fight the system” by committing huge pranks and making fun of the football team. This isn’t to say that the jocks at the school don’t deserve to be made fun of. Lawton (Matthew Carey), the team captain, is a complete jerk that likes to use his popularity to get elected Student Body President as well as embarrass freshmen and sleep around on his cheerleader girlfriend.
In truly cliched Teen Comedy fashion, Harper and Lawton of course end up locking horns. Lawton has the hots for Meg (Lacey Chabert), the school’s future valedictorian, but unfortunately for the jock superstar, she is completely unreceptive to his advances. This results in Lawton taking his frustrations out on Meg’s brother, who happens to be a friend of Zach. In order to get his friend off the hook with Lawton as well as win the affections of Meg, Zach agrees to take part in the West Valley High’s infamous tradition, The Dirty Deeds. The Deeds are a list of apparently ridiculous and unfunny pranks and stunts to perform, including stealing corpses and violating loaves of bread. The person to finish all ten of the Deeds within a twelve hour time limit will be granted God-like status among the student body.
Under the hands of a good director, this may have been a really funny picture in the vain of Road Trip or Revenge of the Nerds. Instead, Dirty Deeds may mark the death of the Teen Comedy. Beginning with the classic Animal House, the genre has been the home for entertaining romps like the trilogy of Porky’s or American Pie films. Unfortunately, Dirty Deeds just comes off as dead weight. In Not Another Teen Movie the genre was spoofed with a small degree of success, but was still a decent hit. Dirty Deeds seems unsure of whether it wants to be part of the genre or just be another parody of it.
Take for instance the characters of the film. Now while the Teen Comedy as a genre is prone to being full of clichÃƒÂ©s, this film takes it to outlandish extremes. Director David Kendall expects you to laugh at the sight of the jock, goth, white rapper, and nerd cliques, but without good writing or acting, these characters aren’t funny. They’re each just lame sight gags. The worst character is played by Alex Solowitz as JD Riplock, the school’s resident homicidal maniac. In one scene, Riplock is constantly missing out on opportunities to park his truck in the school’s lot. His solution ends up being to park his truck on top of another student’s car. Now in the real world, wouldn’t this get him arrested? Another scene has the character taking part in what seems to be an underground fight tournament. You get it? He’s the crazy, tough kid. He’s so tough; he’s beating up Martial Artists in tournaments, ala Bloodsport. This apparently happens all the time in area high schools. You want more great characters? How about the gruff Vice Principle? Check. A quirky school secretary with intestinal problems? Check. How about an older mentor to the main character that’s “been here before”? Check.
The leads here are just as original. Milo Ventimiglia is serviceable as Zach Harper, but as “the loner that the rebels against authority and is secretly enchanted by the beautiful girl”, Emile Hirsch is much better at the role in The Girl Next Door. Lacey Chabert is very likable as Meg, the film’s “good girl”. Despite some bad dialogue in places, she’s able to come out of the film without hurting her career. She’s come a long way since Party of Five, but still has to deal with a terrible script.
The rest of the cast is not nearly as congenial. Matthew Carey would have been better being cast as a block of wood than playing the film’s villain, Lawton. The film has Lawton tricking Meg’s brother into the old joke of drinking his urine. While this was funny when Sean William Scott’s Stifler had a similar experience in American Pie, this film has an innocent freshman being the butt of the prank. Stifler was a complete tool that deserved what he got; the joke here just makes you sick to your stomach. In more imaginative character work we get Officer Dill (Michael Milhoan), who has to deal with hearing the word “doe” every time someone says his name. It’s just as funny the first time you hear as it is the fifteenth time it happens in the film.