High school comedies had a
brief renaissance in the '90s, with the likes of American Pie, Dazed and
Confused and Can't Hardly Wait, but while this film aspires to
being those pictures (or such early 80s inspirations like Porkys, The Last
American Virgin and Risky Business), strangely the one that this
movie seems to have been inspired the most by is a long-forgotten early 80s
guilty pleasure called Midnight Madness.
That was about a group
of college kids who were racing around Los Angeles all night in a city-wide
scavenger hunt. Midnight Madness was only the second PG rated
film ever released by the traditionally kid-friendly Disney. (The
first was a sci-fi flick called The Black Hole.) It starred
that era's almost-stars David Naughton (hero of An American
Werewolf in London and the long series of "I'm A Pepper" Dr. Pepper
commercials), Debra Clinger (an early 80s beauty who appeared in the
short-lived "jiggle" series All-American Girls), Steven Furst
(Flounder of Animal House) and Eddie Deezen (the greatest nerd actor
ever.) It is also notable for being the movie that gave Michael J. Fox
his first significant movie role (as Naughton's angry, misunderstood young
brother) and had an early cameo by Pee Wee Herman.
As a critic, I know full
well that Midnight Madness was not a good film. The dialogue
was silly, the characters were clichés, the humor was broad, the acting was
overwrought and the storyline didn't really make sense. Yet, over the
years, any time the movie is on TV, I can't help but watch and I never fail
to enjoy it.
similar to the older film in the fact that the storyline was very similar –
a high school has a mythic group of "deeds" – juvenile pranks that a
student must perform through-out the night in different parts of town.
Over the years, only one person has ever completed all ten of the deeds,
however every year someone in the school flames out spectacularly while
The movie is also comparable
because even though I realize intellectually that it's not all that great;
it doesn't make much sense, the characters are kind of clichés – it was
still a lot of fun.
Milo Ventimiglia plays Zach,
a cute (but charmingly disheveled) rebel without a cause but with a big chip
on his shoulder. He hates his hometown, he hates the school, in fact
he hates everything but his stunning classmate Meg.
interestingly, plays Meg as the exact same beautiful-but-brainy good girl role that
she played in Not Another Teen Movie, which, ironically, was a parody
of the role that her former Party of Five castmate Jennifer Love
Hewitt played in Can't Hardly Wait. Still, she's good at the
role, so you can't complain that much. Of course, Meg doesn't have any
idea that Zach digs her, but she does see the nice guy behind the cool
Zach has to come to the
rescue when Meg's nerdy younger brother challenges the sadistic football
star Dan to a head-to-head contest of the Deeds. Instead, Zach takes
them on himself, going on a delinquent quest to steal local landmarks, find
a prom queen's bra, steal a car worth over $100,000. Good, clean fun.
Despite Dan's constant attempts to sabotage him, Zach doggedly goes after
each prank to prove himself to the town and to Meg. In the meantime,
all the other teens in town party raucously while keeping track of Zach's
Charles Durning and Zoë
Saldana show up for slightly-below-their-stature cameos, but at least they
are both kind of funny. (Durning really chews the scenery here,
There is very little
surprising here and the film all too often goes for low gross-out humor.
However, it is legitimately amusing. You may not understand exactly
why you like Dirty Deeds, but don't be surprised if you do. (8/05)
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Posted: August 18, 2005.