Crackle is a wonderful idea for a video streaming service, hosted by Sony Pictures as a completely free, albeit ad-supported way to watch a handful of movies and shows. Crackle has even become well-known enough to get its own app on mobile devices, game platforms and smart TV’s, and it’s small wonder why, given that it’s the ultimate budget-friendly option for video streaming.
With that said however, Crackle’s lack of a subscription fee means that its entertainment options are more limited, and the service definitely stands in the shadow of competing paid video streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu, or even Canadian alternatives like Shomi and CraveTV. Sony’s tried to make Crackle more competitive however, by looking at a strategy that’s worked incredibly well for Netflix, and hosting movies and shows that can only be viewed on Crackle. Sadly, a lot of these aren’t available to view in our native Canada, most glaringly video game-to-film adaptation, Dead Rising: Watchtower, but don’t you worry! Crackle’s latest high-profile attempt to draw attention to the platform actually released day-and-date in Canada, as well as the U.S.! Fancy that!
Anyway, this attempt comes in the form of Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser, the long overdue sequel to 2001 cult hit movie, Joe Dirt, and a follow-up that exclusively released on Crackle. For better or for worse, Joe Dirt is considered to be one of Happy Madison actor, David Spade’s most beloved characters, and demand for a second Joe Dirt movie has persisted for quite a long time. Despite being savaged by critics, Joe Dirt found a decent following among moviegoers, even if it’s easy to see where the bad reviews come from, thanks to the movie’s love of fart jokes and idiotic storytelling. In fact, Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser’s release timing feels a bit ironic, as it comes mere weeks before rival service, Netflix hosts a miniseries prequel to Wet Hot American Summer, another screwball comedy movie that released in 2001 to scathing critical reviews, yet also became a beloved cult classic, despite that.
Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser has the advantage of being completely free to view, since Crackle has no restrictions or pay walls, but that lack of actual paid cost might be a good thing, since this sequel definitely doesn’t live up to the original. The original movie was already nothing to write home about, largely sustaining itself on its optimistic underdog protagonist, but the sequel feels dead-on-arrival, and way too late to the party. Despite Spade and co-writer/director, Fred Wolf’s best efforts, Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser comes off as excessively weird, yet also surprisingly lazy, sometimes even completely rehashing the same jokes as the first movie, only somehow made even stupider in several cases.
If you’re curious, or you remember liking the original movie, you might as well check out Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser, since it’s not like you have to pay for it. If you aren’t already a Joe Dirt fan with low expectations however, don’t bother, because there’s absolutely nothing for you here.
One of the issues out of the gate with Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser is that it somehow has to undo the pretty definitive ending of its 2001 predecessor. After all, Joe was marrying the love of his life, he became a beloved American hero, he’d solved the mystery of his parents, and he basically lived happily ever after. That doesn’t leave you much room for a second movie, without stepping on the toes of the original’s ending.
Well, apparently there’s a convenient solution for that; Just forget about it! Yep, Joe Dirt has somehow gone all the way back to being an extreme loser that people compulsively fart on constantly for some reason (because Happy Madison), as if everyone suddenly forgot about his widespread celebrity status from the first movie. He’s still married to Brandy mind you, and the two have triplets together, but this affects absolutely nothing in the story, despite billing itself as the inciding incident.
The whole point of Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser is that Joe basically ends up on a spiritual journey (yes, seriously) to find happiness, despite being so hated by everyone. Immediately however, this is a flawed premise, because it means you have to disregard the ending of the original movie, and retcon out all of Joe’s celebrity love. That’s misguided at best, and lazy at worst. Despite fourteen years passing, Joe has somehow not grown at all as a character, and Spade immediately goes back to thinking it’s still 2001, which makes Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser feel like a Happy Madison-approved re-tread of things we already saw him do.
To Spade’s credit, he at least tries to do something different with this sequel originally, but it’s not long before he seems to abandon any sense of reason for non-sequitir weirdness. Granted, the original movie had a lot of non-sequitir, random gags too, but Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser stretches these gags to sometimes painful extremes, which is basically beating a dead horse when the joke isn’t funny to begin with. When you’re falling back on this many fart jokes, boob jokes and redneck jokes, you’re really scraping the bottom of the comedic barrel from the outset, and rather than being a likable accidental hero like in the first movie, Joe now comes off as a flat-out empty-headed numbskull whose motivations are now far less defined, since the movie’s story is so much more sloppy. At least the first movie gave Joe a clear-cut objective, but the second movie just awkwardly stumbles around all over the place, before tossing in some half-assed moral message at the end that feels like it came out of nowhere.
That said though, Spade and Wolf do manage to get back several of the noteworthy actors from the first movie, including Brittany Daniel, Dennis Miller, Adam Beach, and even Christopher Walken! Daniel is more or less collecting an easy paycheque, since she’s not in the movie very much, and has had all of her grounded charm sucked out to become a hyper-devout bimbo who just serves as eye candy. Beach meanwhile shows up for a glorified cameo in a pointless throwaway gag, while Miller’s supposed presence as a narrator, reprising his role as Zander Kelly, feels like something the movie only half-commits to, as a lazy throwback to its predecessor, where Joe tells his story on Zander’s radio program. Now, Miller just sits in a trailer park, for seemingly no reason, and tells Joe’s story to a bunch of hicks, despite Joe also telling his story to a woman on a bus bench. Well, is Joe the narrator then, or is Zander? Come on guys, that’s just inept! Part of the original movie’s charm is that Joe is an unreliable narrator, and some of that is attempted again in the sequel, but when you have two unreliable narrators on top of each other, that’s just dumb!
As for Christopher Walken, I can’t really discuss how he plays into things without some key spoilers, but he’s one of the only actors in the movie that occasionally manages to get a laugh, reprising his role from the first movie once again, that is, aside from some giggles on account of Spade that feel mostly accidental. The same is true of Patrick Warburton, who is kind of funny in spite of the material, but again, I can’t discuss him without giving away key story bits, since Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser takes a pretty hard left turn with his character in the third act that entirely changes his role around, for reasons unknown.
There aren’t really any other actors of note in Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser, with many of the “characters” showing up as a loose string of gag fodder, without much rhyme or reason. Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser really needed better structuring, and its poorly-defined and/or shallow personalities are one of the biggest casualties of this. Even Joe himself has lost a lot of his charm in this sequel, now going full-blown dumb-ass, and even declaring aloud at one point in the movie, “I just keep getting dumber!” Yeah, admitting that out loud in the movie doesn’t make it alright to write your character so lazily, Spade!
When it comes to Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser, I will at least offer it this praise; It doesn’t recycle its predecessor. Given the Happy Madison crew’s problem with lazy re-treads in their material, something that this movie is still guilty of in quite a few places, I’m pleasantly surprised that the story of Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser avoids the common pitfall of many comedy sequels, and actually does tell a distinctly new story, completely unlike that of the first movie.
Unfortunately though, Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser might be one of those comedy sequels that would have been better off treading a bit more closely to its predecessor. The new direction for the sequel’s storyline is certainly ambitious, but again, it sputters out of the gate because of the misguided decision to sweep so much of the first movie’s resolution under the rug. What’s left is a movie that tries for novelty, yet somehow still ends up feeling regressive, cancelling out Joe’s character development from the original movie, and forcing an excuse to make him even dumber, and even more bullied for no reason.
It’s frustrating that I can’t go into more detail about the plot, but considering that avid fans of the first movie have probably grown up by now, and would be expecting a movie that’s at least slightly more smart and sophisticated in its low-brow humour, even those who loved the first Joe Dirt during its theatrical run will probably be scratching their heads at the sequel. Its oddball new direction feels strange and out-of-place, even if it’s easy to see where Spade and Wolf were trying to go with it.
Still, even if the concept for Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser had at least some merit, even if it would have made more sense as a prequel than a sequel, the execution is kind of faulty. The jokes have become insultingly juvenile, and any sense of reason has now completely been thrown out. This makes the movie feel like it just doesn’t give a damn, and if the movie itself doesn’t give a damn about its own storyline, why should the audience?
Spade’s Joe Dirt co-writer, fellow Happy Madison regular, Fred Wolf, has now taken directing duties on Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser, succeeding the original movie’s helmer, Dennie Gordon, no doubt because she had plenty of better things to do, after becoming pretty successful as a television director with a very wide resume. Not bad for the woman who gave us Joe Dirt, that’s for sure!
Anyway, Wolf’s own directing resume doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, mostly being Spade’s short film shenanigans buddy, and also helming the aggressively awful Happy Madison comedy, Strange Wilderness, and the only somewhat awful Happy Madison comedy, The House Bunny, both of which released in 2008. That double bill should give you an indication of how much effort Happy Madison puts into some of their “work”, with Wolf churning out these two projects at record speed.
Anyway, Wolf’s direction hasn’t improved much in Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser. The sequel feels very clumsily put together, and is stitched on piss-poor production values, since no studio in their right mind would throw any reasonable degree of money at Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser. It’s easy to speculate that Spade and Wolf funded a good chunk of this movie themselves, and made a deal with Sony Pictures and Crackle to see through the rest of funding and production. To be fair, this sequel isn’t completely devoid of an attempt at polish, but it still too often unfolds like an overlong student film, right down to the bargain bin-level presentation. There’s even rather conspicous black fade-outs at various points that further make Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser come off as a crappy made-for-TV movie, obviously placed in on account of the mandatory Crackle ad breaks.
Like Spade, Wolf also often feels like he doesn’t give a damn about the movie in general when it doesn’t suit him, not really paying attention to deriving good performances out of the actors during key scenes, at least beyond Spade himself, and even then, Spade and Wolf seem to prefer goofing off over making a good movie. Wolf also doesn’t set up scenes very well, which is why Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser often feels so confusing, as if it’s making up its absurd plot as it goes along. Frankly, despite the apparent existence of a script for this movie, that wouldn’t surprise me if it turned out to be true.
But what do you expect from a Happy Madison movie made for Crackle? Happy Madison even coasts through their highly promoted theatrical movies at the best of times. A Crackle movie can almost be expected to care even less about the presentation. At the very least, the soundtrack is pretty good, having a good selection of reliable classic rock hits that suit Joe Dirt’s style, as established in the first movie. That’s… something, I guess.
Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser sadly feels like it’s coasting on the cult appeal of the original Joe Dirt, and whatever ambition it initially set out with seems to have been abandoned midway through production. Despite roping back a decent amount of the original lead actors, and making an effort to avoid rehashing the first movie, Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser feels over a decade too late, and is now far too brainless and idiotic to get any reasonable degree of entertainment out of. This is even true for most fans of the original movie, who are now considerably older, and hopefully wiser.
Still, it’s difficult to get that upset with Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser, since it is free to view as an exclusive Crackle Original. That said though, just because the movie doesn’t cost money to see, and probably would have elicited far more anger from myself and others if it was actually screened in theatres for money, that doesn’t excuse the lack of a quality standard in some key places here. Lack of cost notwithstanding, Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser still demands just under two hours of your time, yet only offers jokes that are outdated and uninspired, a half-assed, directionless storyline that makes no sense, and a presentation that barely evolves beyond made-for-TV level. Even though the story tries to be different, the actual comedy also sometimes copies jokes verbatim from the first movie, which feels incredibly lazy.
Ultimately, that’s what Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser sadly amounts to, another lazy Happy Madison cash-in, which ranges between head-scratching and annoying. If this was the movie that Sony hoped would motivate people to take its Crackle streaming platform more seriously, they wasted their money, sadly. There is absolutely nothing here for non-fans of Joe Dirt, and even a good chunk of Joe Dirt fans will probably feel that this sequel is too late and too inept to get much enjoyment out of.
Granted, it is free to watch, so if you’re that morbidly curious, you might as well give it a look. Don’t say I didn’t warn you though. There’s nothing beautiful about this loser.
- At least makes an effort to try something different
- Soundtrack is solid
- Mostly unfunny, frequently lazy jokes throughout
- Story is terribly written and makes no sense
- Horrendous presentation and sloppy directing