Remember when the National Lampoon brand meant funny movies? Movies like the Vacation films and Animal House? Plenty of us do, but sadly, these days seem to be so much history as the name has, in recent times, become synonymous not with funny, cutting edge humor and genuinely hilarious characters and situations but rather with redundancy and bottom of the barrel frat humor. Case in point? This most recent straight to video stinker, National Lampoon's Dirty Movie.
The premise for the picture, such as it is, revolves around an aspiring filmmaker named Charlie intent on making a film that is based around nothing but the dirtiest jokes imaginable. He and his cast and crew start to work but then a debate emerges as to whether or not they should use a certain racial epithet when telling racist jokes in their movie - and that's basically it for plot. The rest of the film is basically just these guys telling dirty jokes in the context of the movie within a movie. The big problem here is that it's just not funny. Dirty, yes, but not funny. In National Lampoon's defense, it is titled Dirty Movie and not Funny Movie so there's some truth in advertising there, but that's about as complimentary as we can get here.
Did you ever hang out with your pals in high school and tell dirty jokes? Did you ever find a dog eared copy of Truly Tasteless Jokes while leafing through your dad's desk drawer looking for something you shouldn't have been? Or for those born in the internet age, did you ever do a search for dirty jokes? Then you pretty much know where this is all going. Yes, every once in a while a cast member will manage to land a funny one, and so yes, every once in a while you won't be able to help yourself from chuckling but these moments are far too fleeting to have any staying power. The filmmakers wisely try to hide this with some naked breasts, which is a tried and true tactic and one which can, for some of us, save a movie but as nice as these naked breasts are to look at, they really don't add more than mild titillation. See, that was a pun right there, a dirty joke if you will. It wasn't all that funny though, right?
What else does the film have going for it aside from superfluous breasts? Well, Cyndi Lauper pops up in it for no good reason at all and it's in focus, so there's that, but all in all this is a tiring picture to get through. The laughs are too infrequent and the content too unoriginal to care about. There's really not much of a narrative structure here at all, certainly not enough to hold your interest for an hour and a half even if it is for an hour and a half of boobs and bad jokes. The performances are nothing to write home about - they're not good enough to make you take notice but neither are they bad enough to stand out either, they're just simply there, like so much of the material. The direction is certainly competent from a technical standpoint but it's all dragged down but some really bad and almost entirely unfunny material and a premise that doesn't really wind up going anywhere.
The movie looks good in this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation that features nice color reproduction and a fair bit of detail in the foreground and the background of the image at all times. There's a bit of edge enhancement and at times just a little bit more grain than you might expect to see but there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and overall the image is pretty decent on this DVD.
The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 track is of fairly decent quality. The levels are well balanced and there aren't any problems with hiss or distortion to complain about. Dialogue comes through clearly at all times and the score and sound effects are mixed in with the appropriate amount of punch though almost everything comes at you from the front of the sound mix and the surrounds are used only sparingly to spread out the music and throw in an odd sound effect or two. Optional subtitles are provided in English and Spanish.
There are a few extras here for those who want them, the most substantial being the commentary track with writer Alan Donnes and director Jerry Daigle. These guys have a good chemistry together and seem to have enjoyed themselves while working together on this picture. It's not a deep track, but it's not a deep film either so you kind of get what you expect here.
A bland making of featurette is also found on the disc along with an optional laugh track, which is just frustrating, really. Menus and chapter stops are there too.
Putting Cyndi Lauper in this movie didn't make it better. Gratuitous T&A didn't' make it better either. In fact, it's hard to think of much that could have made this movie better - it's just a horrible, unfunny film from start to finish. You'd honestly be better off with one of the Van Wilder sequels than this tepid, laugh-less attempt at comedy. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.