Sometimes my love of the ridiculous leads me to the sublime. And sometimes it leads me to Men at Work. “WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY EMILIO ESTEVEZ,” I surely shouted. “How could this not be amazing?” That it starred brothers Estevez and Sheen and featured a score by Stewart Copeland (drummer for the Police) only seemed to pave the way for success.

Though released in 1990, the movie has an unmistakable 80s feel. Emilio and Charlie play lovable garbage men who witness the murder of a politician, Rear Window style. Only much creepier. Of course, they don’t realize it was a hit until the dead politician turns up on their garbage route. Hilarity then ensues, with some Weekend at Bernie’s riffing. Well, except for the hilarity. Almost all of the movie misses, and misses badly. Part of the charm of this sort of wacky 80s escapade movie is the irreverence. It would take a whole lot of artfulness to wedge deft wordplay into such a script, so the fact that Estevez fails in that respect isn’t necessarily a knock against him. But where’s the wackiness? Indeed, the movie sometimes feels like it has a decent frame, as if the straight man is delivering his lines, but the comic partner is nowhere around to knock down the jokes.

The only parts of the movie that do work are the zany ones. The increasingly disgusting office pranks, for example. And primarily, Keith David. I link to his imdb profile because he might not be familiar by name, so you might be saying, “Who can it be now?” (like there was any chance I’d make it through this post without a bad reference to the Aussie band) but by face (and especially voice) he is. Arbiter from Halo, for crying out loud! So, yes, Mr. David rocks. And in Men at Work, it seems Emilio Estevez basically said, “OK, go crazy.” And crazy Keith David went. To some degree of mania I’ve never seen. Almost inexplicably, it references the truly amazing Better Off Dead, a point I verified through (also almost inexplicably) another blog post on this movie.

The bad guy, played by John Getz, is one of the lamest bad guys ever. He’s got your typical moronic henchman, but his evil plan is…to continue illegally dumping toxic waste? How nefarious! Mr. Getz plays the villain rather awkwardly. The female lead is Leslie Hope, who doesn’t do much for me, but who popped up a decade later to play Jack Bauer’s wife in 24. So that’s something.

I normally don’t notice these things, much less comment on them, but the homophobia in the movie goes way beyond latent. On multiple occasions, bad guys (or, at least, enemies of the brothers Sheen) end up tied together in sexually suggestive positions. And yes, the fact that they are tied together in sexually suggestive positions is overtly referenced in the movie.

Feel free to skip Men at Work. The laughs are few and far between. If you watch it with a friend, you very well might be men at sleep.

A pretty ridiculous trailer after the jump

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