'Dirty Deeds' Done Too Clean

Meg (Lacey Chabert), one of the reasons Zack's doing the deeds.

If 'American Pie' was remade as a Disney sitcom, the result would look something like 'Dirty Deeds' a film that's part anachronism, part contradiction. It's a movie that wants to be bad and dirty and depraved, but ultimately ends up being little more than a quaint reminder of cleaner times and outdated sitcom contrivances. Like the 'Full House' girls going wild or other squeaky clean sitcom kids trying to run amok, most of the film's ideas of vulgarity and rebellion wouldn't even make the average network T.V. censor bat an eye, let alone reach the levels of lewd behavior that have become the norm for modern teen movies.

This isn't to say that a film has to be raunchy to be funny, but when the implicit promise in the title is debauchery and crude humor, wimpy schoolboy pranks just don't cut it. If outrageous behavior is going to be used as a crutch, it has to be shocking enough to distract us from the film's other shortcomings it only works if at least one scene is outlandish enough to spur water cooler controversy and merit sitting through the rest of the film. After seeing Jason Biggs violate a pie, Cameron Diaz using unconventional hair gel, and a host of other disgusting movie moments, minor stunts like stealing a prosthetic leg or getting a bra from an ex-homecoming queen just seem passe.

Celebrating Zack's progress with the Dirty Deeds checklist.

Written by novelist Jon Land and high school student Jonathan Thies both of whose inexperience is obvious here the script poaches liberally from teen movies and bad sitcoms alike, resulting in little more than a thin plot culled from overused cliches, toned down gross-out humor and the occasional heavy-handed karmic message. It also doesn't help that veteran sitcom helmer David Kendall's ('Growing Pains,' 'Boy Meets World') direction is more suited to television than the silver screen.  

Zack (Milo Ventimiglia, left) helps out Mullet (Todd Zeile).

The one bright spot is Milo Ventimiglia, who imbues rebellious protagonist Zack Harper with a suave coolness. Goaded into the deeds by the usual reasons protecting nervous protege Kyle (Wes Robinson) from pompous jock and tormentor extraordinaire Dan (Matthew Carey, looking more drugged than menacing) and potentially impressing Kyle's knockout older sister, Meg (Lacey Chabert) Zack must finish all ten of them over the course of a single night.

With one exception let's just say wheat bread is the new apple pie the deeds themselves are more ridiculous than dirty, ranging from drinking a beer in front of a cop to stealing a Ferrari. The usual shenanigans fill in the rest of the plot a freshman throws a destructive house party in the hopes of scoring, and every stereotyped high school clique from jocks to Goths gets their moment on the screen and deeds 1 and 2 keep local cop Officer Dill (Michael Milhoan) and token psychotic bully Riplock (Alex Solowitz, in the film's most blatant display of overacting) constantly on Zack's tail as the film plods toward it's predictably inane conclusion.   

Crazed bully Riplock (Alex Solowitz) looks for trouble.

Ventimiglia plays cocky with a casual swagger that's smug enough to be entertaining but stops short of arrogance, and Chabert who's given little more than an archetype to work with has enough charm and chemistry with Ventimiglia to make Zack's flimsy reasons for attempting the dirty deeds seem at least mildly plausible. It may be a small consolation, but the film's lack of originality at least ensures that he won't go down in history as the guy who penetrated a pie.      

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