Dude, Where’s My Car? (2000)


The age of irony and the Internet has brought us many marvelous things, among them the genre of Movies That Sell Themselves Completely on Their Titles. “Hobo with a Shotgun,” “Snakes on a Plane,” “Cowboys & Aliens” — half the fun (in some cases, all the fun) of movies like those is thinking about how awesome the title makes them sound.

“Dude, Where’s My Car?” probably wasn’t the first of these, but it’s the first one I remember, and the first one I reviewed as a real live movie critic. In fact, my review was more a response to the title than to the film itself. I thought, “Here’s a movie whose title announces that it’s going to be dumb; what if I wrote a really sarcastic review in which I pretended to think it was brilliant?? What an amusing juxtaposition that would be!”

It’s kind of a jerky review. Not that it isn’t funny — don’t get me wrong, it’s HILARIOUS — it’s just more dismissive of the movie than the movie deserved. Plenty of films are worse than this one; I piled on “Dude, Where’s My Car?” mostly because it was begging for it.

What I said then:

“‘Dude, Where’s My Car?’ is a triumph in filmmaking, a masterful blend of brilliant characterization, engaging storytelling, and pure human emotion. Never have I seen such a penetrating examination of the intricate and fragile creation that is humanity, and never shall I see again the old shell of my psyche that was shattered and born anew upon viewing this elegant masterpiece…. Dude, where’s my car, indeed. Have all the philosophers in 6,000 years of human history asked a nobler question? Its answer is metaphorical of the answers to all of mankind’s queries. So much the better are we for having asked it.” Grade: D- [complete review]

The re-viewing:

Having seen far worse comedies in the intervening 10 1/2 years, and having found some value in even “Freddy Got Fingered” not long ago, I re-approached “Dude, Where’s My Car?” with enthusiasm. I’m not sure I really gave it a chance in 2000; now was potentially the time to rectify that.

I chuckled right off the bat: “The following story is based on actual events.” Well played, movie.

The laughs did not flow abundantly thereafter, but I found the movie to be harmless and rather charming nonetheless. The idiots at the center of it are good-natured and cheerful, in the style of Bill and Ted or the guys from “Dumb and Dumber,” that it’s hard not to root for them. Their stupidity is too exaggerated to be believable … but that makes them more endearing, like a couple of particularly imbecilic puppies.

Jesse (Ashton Kutcher) and Chester (Seann William Scott), though apparently in their twenties, could easily be 15-year-olds. Their attitude toward sex is decidedly adolescent: they claim to want it more than anything but are actually afraid of it and make no real efforts to get it. (They’ve been with their girlfriends for a year and haven’t slept with them.) They’re children, basically — children who smoke weed all the time.

Ah, but there’s an interesting thing about that. They are described by everyone around them as “stoners,” and we catch a glimpse of a pipe on their coffee table in one scene. But not once in the entire movie do we see them smoke, nor do they ever imply that they have just smoked, nor do they indicate that they are currently stoned, nor do they express plans to get stoned later. They talk about how “wasted” they were last night, but that could just as easily mean drunk (which is what “wasted” usually means anyway). Marijuana evidently plays a huge part in their lives, but doesn’t figure at all into their activities or conversation on this particular day. So not only are Jesse and Chester horndogs who never have sex, they’re potheads who never seem to smoke weed.

I was annoyed in 2000 by the way the movie took a thin but workable premise — the same basic premise as “The Hangover,” really — and botched it by introducing weird things like extra-terrestrials, cults, and a sadistic French sheep farmer. Are there not laughs to be had in the realistic scenario of two morons not remembering what they did last night? Why bring in all the surreal nonsense, especially when it isn’t very funny?

Most of that business still didn’t work for me this time around, but I wasn’t annoyed by it. The first time, I was resistant to the movie going in bizarre directions because it didn’t seem like the kind of movie that would do that. Now, having learned that apparently it is that kind of movie, I could accept it for what it is. Still not very funny, but I’ll take “not very funny” over “aggressively irritating” any day.

Do I still hate this movie?

Nah, come on. What’s to hate? I don’t think anyone involved had any grand schemes for creating something subversive or even clever; I think they wanted to make a dumb, fun comedy. It wound up more dumb than fun, and not terribly funny as far as comedies go, but the thing’s so pleasant and sunny that I can’t stay mad at it. Grade: C

— Film.com