In the vein of such movies as Scavenger Hunt and Midnight Madness, Dirty Deeds, while not a groundbreaking comedy, is one of those films that has the ability to grow on you if you let it. Throughout the film, I informed the person I screened this with that the movie had achieved or lowered itself to a certain grade level. This is the tale of Zach (Milo Ventimiglia), a hip outsider, who decides to try his luck by taking on the challenge of completing a list of legendary “Dirty Deeds” that only one person has ever accomplished (the foreshadowing of who this person is was a tad too obvious). He is bolstered in this quest by his hidden feelings for Meg (Lacey Chabert), who’s younger brother admires Zach and initially tries to do the “Dirty Deeds” himself. Doing the “Deeds” as way of showing up popular jock Dan Lawton (Matthew Carey) is another one of Zach’s big incentives. On this movie’s way to a pretty convoluted happy ending, the overall message that Dirty Deeds put’s across is actually a pretty positive one. At about the 3/4 mark in the film, Zach, with the help of someone who also tried his hands at the “Dirty Deeds” many years before, eventually realizes that he’s playing Dan’s game. It is this realization that causes him to rethink why he is doing what he is doing and ultimately reevaluate himself.
As I watched the film my grades ranged from “D’s” to “B’s”. The dirty humor throughout the film got a little tiresome. I know that people think they need to put that stuff in here, but what was once novel is all too commonplace in the world of teen movies. Nowadays, it seems like actually having some “heart” embedded within the laughs is something new. While a lot of teen movies attempt to tack this on at the end of most of their stories, it usually ends up feeling contrived. Somehow, Dirty Deeds, with all of it’s banal jokes and easy humor managed to rise above all of this with the revelation that the Zach character eventually has. Even though it seems to only last for a few minutes, this theme stayed with me and it’s why I feel like Dirty Deeds offers something a little different to today’s moviegoing audience.
Milo Ventimiglia is one of the best young actors I have seen recently. He really seems like he’s much better then the material here. It is obvious that he has a decent range, and I think that’s it a testament to him as an actor that he can play this part so well. I went into this movie skeptical, and I have to admit that it was the performances by him and Lacey Chabert that ultimately changed my thinking. She is very good in the stock role of the really good looking, smart girl that’s looking out for her brother. While I think it’s pretty apparent that these two characters are eventually going to get together, we have good time watching them in a series of near misses.
Lastly, what in the world is an actor like Charles Durning doing in this movie? A veteran of over 100 films, I can’t imagine him reading the screenplay for Dirty Deeds and seeing himself in a role. I know that he is a character actor, and Victor, the one legged security guard that he plays in the film certainly qualifies as that, but I just can’t believe that he’s in this movie. In fact, I remember exactly the moment in the film that I realized that it was him. I was almost shocked. Looking over his career on IMDB it is apparent that Charles Durning could never be mistaken for Charles Discerning in as far as his movie roles are concerned. It is this trait that his given him the large body of work he has, and it also probably explains why he is such a solid performer.
It would be very easy to slag a film like Dirty Deeds as being another teen movie trying to capitalize on gross humor and the teen market. For a majority of this movie this is exactly what is going on. However, I really did believe in the chemistry between Zach and Meg, and truthfully it was this rooting interest that kept me interested in the film. As with all zany movies that take place in one night, there are various subplots to keep the story moving, and in all honestly the character of Vincent Scarno (Mark Derwin) seems to literally come out of nowhere to save the day. If you are looking for a movie that makes 100% sense, or if you don’t like mindless good times, then I don’t think Dirty Deeds is for you. However, if you do like teen movies and you just want to have fun in the theater, this film will more then satisfy this craving.