Were Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser not such an amateur-hour production at pretty much every measurable level, there would be something almost haunting about its slavish devotion to bringing audiences back to 2001. A lot has changed in 14 years: international politics, human interaction, even film comedy itself. The world, largely, has moved on. We no longer make references to The Silence of the Lambs (or really even bite Back to the Future for material), obsess over the scatological in quite the same way, or throw “queer” around like it’s a junior high boys’ locker room. And lo, here is David Spade to take us back to that halcyon place, when the world was simpler and Joe Dirt was a zeitgeist-capturing hit.
OK, so it wasn’t. It’s the movie you watched on Comedy Central at 2:00 p.m. after taking ill. But, for the film’s many aged-beyond-aged bits, there are still a handful that work now and put it at least a cut or two above most of the late-era Happy Madison swill that would follow. Joe Dirt 2 possesses none of those qualities, but what it does have is the dramatically misguided operational assumption that Joe Dirt is an endlessly quoted/watched hit from its time, and that audiences have been clamoring to see the continued adventures of as many of its running characters as possible, even the ones who only showed up for five minutes or so of screen time.
To say that Joe Dirt 2 rehashes the first film is to do a disservice to the double-dip that occurs. Entire scenes and musical cues are re-purposed wholesale to obscure the fact that the film’s biggest power move is the replacement of Kid Rock as Spade’s loudest bully with Sugar Ray and Extra’s Mark McGrath. (At points, the film outright replaces the former with the latter in exchanges from the original film, in a rather brazen example of what we’ll call the Rock-McGrath Paradox.) Basically, Joe (Spade) has married his beloved Brandy (Brittany Daniel) and built a family; the delivery of his triplets is the first in an escalating series of lengthy comic setpieces that aren’t actually funny, just interminable. It also revives the early-2000s trope of that most potent sexual tease: fully clothed lesbians existing anywhere near one another.
Joe ends up swept away by a tornado to 1965, where the film can milk any and all tired time paradox tropes until its halfway point, when Joe Dirt 2 turns into something that less resembles a film than a speculative pitch meeting for itself. Endless references to the first film attempt to cover for the utter creative bankruptcy on display this time around; the “insulted by oil riggers” scene from the original is stretched out to triple its prior length, as Spade is ritually farted upon by nearly a dozen men, one at a time. At another, the Native American fireworks salesman shows up in a dream to reenact the entire “firework names” skit in a slightly different context. Somewhere, Dennis Miller serves as a Greek chorus smugly commenting on the whole thing’s bankruptcy, a rather bold gambit for a movie that’s also periodically interrupted on Crackle by Arby’s commercials.
It’s easy to take potshots at Joe Dirt 2. This merits acknowledgment; somebody out there may be moved to laughter by the film, or perhaps even stirred by its vaguely tossed-off ideas about the importance of family and integrity above all. But even by the rather lofty modern standards of cynical, pointless cash-ins, Joe Dirt 2 is pronounced, a sequel to a mild hit from nearly 15 years ago that even its most ardent defenders would be hard-pressed to justify. The only one we can find is a scenario in which Joe Dirt inherits the mantle of the Up series and returns every decade and a half, each time with the optimism that “Life’s a garden, dig it” will finally catch on, wandering around in the ether of pop culture until either it or the world can change enough for the two to find themselves in harmony again.