Alibi V.28 No.13 • March 28-April 3, 2019 

Idiot Box

Send in the Rock Clowns

The Dirt on Netflix

The new Netflix sensation The Dirt, directed by Jeff Tremaine, tells the story of the legendary '80s hair metal band Mötley Crüe with the sleaze of Cinemax’s Max After Dark and the schlock of an ABC Afterschool Special. Like the 2001 auto-trash-biography of the same name, vignettes in the story are narrated by each of the four band members. There are subtle references that you will only get if you've actually read The Dirt, which redefines the term “light reading.” The acting is surprisingly good, with many of the actors successfully capturing the mannerisms and personalities of the key players in this biopic, on and off the arena stage.

To ask this made-for-TV movie not to be vapid is like asking a skin flick not to be pornographic. The purpose is not to give Vince or Tommy a brain, Mick a heart, or Nikki humility. That would miss the point entirely. The Crüe are portrayed as shallow clichés … because that’s exactly what they were. This quartet of knuckleheads were not the first (although possibly the best) at incorporating a frat mentality into the world of hard rock. The peripheral characters—which include Ozzy Osbourne, David Lee Roth and Doc McGhee—are also invited to the nonstop party. The destructive absurdity of the glam metal scene is adequately captured, as well as an array of bad hairdo choices in the '80s and even worse ones in the early '90s. This is the Animal House of hair metal with an extra helping of disaster.

Though not a small budget film, The Dirt has a more organic, playful feel than a shiny, perfectly paced blockbuster. The make-up, hair and costumes are spot on. The soundtrack is concentrated on the first two full-length Crüe albums, Too Fast For Love and Shout at the Devil, which are arguably the best in the group's catalog. The timeline is fudged a bit for drama’s sake and Mick Mars seems unfairly portrayed as quite the curmudgeon, but even his saltiness is endearing. I would have liked to have seen a short scene with O’Dean, the original singer of Crüe, as he was a quirky character in the book, even though he was in the band all of 10 minutes. There are cheeky moments when the fourth wall is broken down and the narrators address the viewer directly with snide, witty commentary.

Through the haze of hair and blow, this flick accurately captures the 1980s Sunset Strip scene—an era of fervent excess, the likes of which will probably never be seen again. If you could animate a centerfold of Circus magazine, circa 1985, The Dirt is what you'd wind up with.

Incredibly, the story of Crüe doesn’t appear to be embellished. It doesn’t need to be. The Dirt parades the belles of the “Headbangers Ball” through a decade-long pageant of foolishness and brilliance. This piece of bombastic, spiky glitter will keep you amused and entertained. No sluts or cockroaches were harmed during the making of this film, but I wouldn't suggest watching it with your mother. Crack open a cold one, put your feet up and send your brain on a rock ’n' roll vacation.

The Dirt is airing now on Netflix.