The funniest thing about Joe Dirt 2 isn’t in the movie itself. No, the funniest thing about Joe Dirt 2 is the fanciful notion that a glorified Mama’s Family rerun like 2001’s Joe Dirt would require a sequel, and that the demand for one would be so great that it would inspire a now 50-year-old David Spade to surrender what little is left of his dignity, put his mullet wig back on, and wearily subject himself to another gauntlet of fart jokes and testicular-injury-based humor.
A film that devotes 90 percent of its running time to kicking its idiot hero in the ass, and the remaining 10 percent nakedly courting sympathy for all of the kicks to the keister its poor, unfortunate hero has to endure at the hands of cruel fate (i.e., the filmmakers), Joe Dirt 2 begins with its protagonist overjoyed at having married the woman of his dreams, sexpot with a heart of gold Brandy (Brittany Daniel). The universe simply will not allow Spade’s working-class dullard to be happy, however, and Joe is separated from his wife and three children by more than geography when a twister blows his trailer straight into 1965. This affords the film an opportunity to nakedly rip off the plot of Back To The Future, as Spade encounters the parents of the people he knows and tries not to cause a rift in the time-space continuum. That somehow leads to an even more nakedly derivative riff on It’s A Wonderful Life, with Joe being given invaluable life lessons by a guardian angel played by Patrick Warburton.
Joe Dirt 2 consequently has the strange quality of being at once horrifically underwritten and horrifically convoluted. It’s as if co-screenwriters Spade and Fred Wolf had written scripts for three Joe Dirt sequels, a Joe Dirt Christmas special in the vein of those special episodes of television shows where characters re-live the plot of A Christmas Carol or It’s A Wonderful Life, and some Joe Dirt sketches for Spade the next time he hosts Saturday Night Live, then decided to combine all of these far-flung ideas into one ridiculously overwrought epic. If any film had an excuse to run the minimum of 79 minutes or so it’d be a late-in-the-game follow-up to Joe Dirt. At an egregious 106 minutes, Joe Dirt 2 feels like a director’s cut where every single moment of footage was carefully preserved, no matter how pointless or unfunny or digressive it might be.
The film throws so much at the wall that the law of averages dictates that at least something will stick, and indeed there are two funny moments in the film, both of which would be better as the kind of weird, conceptual sketches that habitually run in the last 10 minutes or so of SNL. In one, Spade’s mulleted moron sits down with the young members of the group that will become Lynyrd Skynyrd and they all happily suggest band names later adopted by musicians who are either outwardly gay or extremely effeminate. The notion that Wham is a particularly tough, violent name redolent of the sound of people being viciously beaten is a clever one. But even this semi-inspired gag quickly peters out once Spade’s character remembers the plane crash that killed some of the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and rather than advise them not to travel via planes, he simply slinks away. Then again, maybe in the science-fiction realm of Joe Dirt 2, if Lynyrd Skynyrd hadn’t died in a plane crash, the band members very well could have all grown up to be Hitler-like tyrants. (The other two minutes of amusement involve Christopher Walken returning to deliver a speech about inspirational kitten posters, and even in the black hole of comedy that is Joe Dirt 2, Walken pronouncing the word “goose” and talking about kittens is comic gold.)
The plot isn’t the only element caught in a time warp. Joe Dirt 2 manages a clumsy reference to Kanye West, but otherwise it’s overflowing with references to pop culture that would have been terribly dated in the first film, but seem ancient now, like clumsy odes to The Silence Of The Lambs, Cast Away, and Forrest Gump. Joe Dirt 2 even resurrects the living corpse of Dennis Miller, who provided the framing device for the first film and pointlessly shows up here to make the film’s star seem like slightly less of a smug, smarmy bastard by comparison. Spade has never exactly exuded warmth, and though Joe Dirt 2 keeps insisting what a decent, kind-hearted mensch its main character is, the sloppy sentimentality can’t help but feel calculated and disingenuous considering how many of the film’s gags are devoted to punching down and gleefully mocking the poor, tacky, and already mocked.
The existence of direct-to-streaming Happy Madison vehicles is, frankly, horrifying, because it means that the laziest, least quality-obsessed people in show-business this side of Asylum have even more of an excuse to half-ass it. And at this point, a dispiriting tendency toward half-assing it isn’t just one of the production company’s fatal flaws, it’s essentially an entire business model. Direct to Crackle and direct to Netflix may be a relatively new paradigm for movies starring formerly bankable actors and funnymen, but the schlockmeisters over at Happy Madison are already giving it a bad name. Joe Dirt 2’s existence is a joke, and other than the two moments cited above, it’s as close as the film comes to laughter.