Review: Dirty Deeds

By Kim Hollis

August 26, 2005

A cautionary tale about what happens to people who play for the New York Mets.

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For anyone who finds themselves compulsively watching teen movies of all sorts, Dirty Deeds will be a film to follow in that long-standing tradition. From my teen years on to the present day, whenever I have scanned the television channels for something to watch to fill the time, I've almost always stopped on such stuff as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Just One of the Guys and Sixteen Candles. Although Dirty Deeds doesn't really quite hold up to those lofty standards, it's an enjoyable enough little trifle.

I'd been intrigued by Dirty Deeds ever since I discovered that the executive producers are former St. Louis Cardinal Todd Zeile and current New York Yankee Jason Giambi. It seemed natural to me that baseball players would somehow become interested in investing some of their hard-earned cash in the movie business. Even better, I noted in several stories that I had read that Zeile would even have a small role.

The movie takes place during a homecoming weekend at a California high school. Each year during this time frame, one student takes it upon himself to accept the challenge of completing the "Dirty Deeds", a set of tasks that must be completed in an approximately 12 hour period. Very few students have been able to pass the test, and the one guy who was able to do all the Dirty Deeds several years ago lives on as a big-time legend.

Naturally, the schism that exists at this movie's high school is completely similar to the one we've seen in most every teen movie since the beginning of time. The jocks and the cheerleaders are super cool. Everyone else...not so much, apparently. The school's likely valedictorian, Meg (Lacey Chabert), is stunningly gorgeous, but even she exists on the fringe of that society. Her primary concern - other than escaping the tedium of her current life by getting into an Ivy League school - is looking out for her younger brother, Kyle (Wes Robinson). Unfortunately, since Meg shows no interest in Lawton (Matthew Carey), the biggest jock bully, he has it in for the poor kid and goes about terrorizing him at every opportunity. To try to rise above such tactics, Kyle announces that he will complete the Dirty Deeds, which apparently would somehow go a long way toward proving that Lawton is a jerk and a coward (though the why of it is never made precisely clear).

Continuing in hyper-protective mode, Meg asks one of her brother's friends, a senior named Zach (Milo Ventimiglia) to do something about the situation. Zach invokes the fact that he is a senior, while Kyle is only a mere freshman. As a result, if Zach announces that he will do the Deeds instead, he has right of first refusal to do the Deeds himself. And so we see our young hero, Zach, set out to accomplish a variety of challenges that range from drinking beer in front of a cop to obtaining a signed bra from a past homecoming queen.

I've found Ventimiglia to be a charming young actor ever since his days as Jess Mariano on Gilmore Girls, and he really is the best thing about Dirty Deeds as well. He's not given a particularly original or special script to work with here, but he still manages to stand out. His delivery of certain lines is hilarious and wry, and he always manages to be likeable and charismatic even though we're not particularly given a reason to root for him (other than that he's a good guy and a bit of a rebel).

For the most part, the rest of the cast simply is pigeonholed into whichever cliché role they've been assigned. Zoe Saldana is fun in a very brief appearance and I always like to see Everwood's Tom Amandes, but he's just not as amusing if he's not up to goofy antics with appropriate music to match. As for Zeile, he's probably not going to be getting any awards nominations any time soon, but he's instantly recognizable and is a decent voice of wisdom.

My biggest complaint with the film is that it is extremely scattershot. There's a lot going on, including a subplot about the requisite party at a freshman's house while the parents are away, but the result of having so many characters is that we never really get to know any of them - including the main two or three - well enough to care much about what's going on. Some of the ways that Zach is able to "outsmart" the deeds are cute, but there aren't really that many legitimate laugh-out-loud moments. And there's a scene involving a certain bodily function that seems to have been inserted in the film simply because the director/producers looked up and suddenly realized they didn't have one.

Even so, the movie more or less met exactly with my expectations. I enjoy Ventimiglia as a performer, and since he entertained me here, it was a mostly painless way to pass a couple of hours.



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