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Top 100 Movies of the 1990's: #95 Dirty Work

Box Office: $10.0 Million

Oscar Nominations: None

Oscar Wins: None

Stream For Free: Tubi

Movierankings.Net: 46/100

If we are talking about the art of filmmaking, Dirty Work is not a good movie. If you don't enjoy Norm MacDonald's style of humor, Dirty Work is not a funny movie. However, Norm MacDonald is one of my favorite comedians and I think Dirty Work is one of the funniest movies of the decade.

This was a movie no one wanted during production. MGM forced producers and director Bob Saget to make many edits after the film had already been shot. They wanted to get the film, which was shot with the intention to be an R-rated and raunchy comedy to be a down to a PG-13. Once that happened, the run time was down to 82 minutes. The content cuts make the movie even more bizarre. It will allude to things with or about adult content but deftly handled to get it to the PG-13 rating. This might be the first time anyone has ever compared Bob Saget to Alfred Hitchcock, but in the same way Hitchcock implied sex in his films, Saget does the same with raunchy comedy. You know it's happening but it's up to the viewer to see it.

This was a movie no one wanted right after production. It was either reviled by critics or simply ignored. The Austin Chronicle called Dirty Work "an awful, achingly unfunny comedy". The New York Times used the terms "terminally stupid" and "brain dead". Roger Ebert didn't even bother submitting a review. The box office wasn't any kinder. It opened the same weekend as Six Days and Seven Nights and Can't Hardly Wait and finished a distant 9th place.

Giphy Images.

It's easy to say this was a movie ahead of it's time but that's not really true either. I don't think Dirty Work would be successful or even released in 2022. I don't think there was ever really a time for Dirty Work or Norm MacDonald to be successful at a mass level. Or if there is such a time, it has yet to be lived in.

I've been a huge Norm MacDonald fan since I saw him do Weekend Update on SNL in the mid 90's. I was lucky enough to see him do stand-up at Caroline's in 2013 and 2014. He's the funniest comedian I've ever seen and his fingerprints are all over the movie. Norm co-wrote Dirty Work and it's clearly his voice. Truth be told, there was probably no way I would have disliked this movie. But what makes me love it is the amazing cast.

Norm loved and respected comedy. Look at the admiration he had for David Letterman here (at 7:45 minute mark):

Bob Saget also loved comedy and between the two of them, they assembled a cast of some of the funniest people on the planet. Chevy Chase. Don Rickles. James Downey. Chris Farley. They are all in the movie and each of them are in positions where they can be at their funniest. Rickles is heckling people. Downey is a sad sack. Farley is overreacting. Best of all, Chase is at his Fletch/Ty Webb best. The way he can do line readings of things that aren't jokes but make them hysterically funny is second to none. Chase was great in Community but that's a different role. Dirty Work is the last time that we see Chevy Chase in all of his aloof brilliance.

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Watching Dirty Work, it's hard to believe that Artie Lange and Norm didn't know each other before production. Their friendship feels so natural and Artie completely gets the tone Norm is going for. Their collaboration paid off again in The Norm Show on ABC which ran for three seasons. For as disaffected as Norm is, the people he surrounds himself with both in this movie and his show are so good at reacting. Having Artie Lange in this movie makes it more fun.

If you don't enjoy Norm MacDonald's sense of humor, then I'm not going to sell you on this movie. If that's how you view the world, you're not wrong to dislike Dirty Work. This is a taste issue, not a quality one. This isn't a particularly well made movie. But if you enjoy Norm at all and you haven't seen this, watch it this weekend. If you are younger and only know him from people sharing clips of him after he died last year, watch it this weekend. Finally, if you love Norm and you've seen this movie a dozen times, watch it this weekend. So many people involved with this movie have passed away but because it's Norm and his unique perspective, the comedy doesn't really age. I promise if you enjoyed this movie in the past, you'll enjoy it again.

95. Dirty Work

96. Election

97. Tremors

98. Any Given Sunday

99. The Wedding Singer

100. Clerks