Men At Work

1990, Movie, PG-13, 98 mins

Review

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Begin with a dash of WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S; add one scoop of REAR WINDOW, two dumb cops who couldn't have made the grade in POLICE ACADEMY, and a jigger of third-rate Laurel & Hardy; shake well and what you have is MEN AT WORK, an action comedy of sorts from writer-director-costar Emilio Estevez. The plot concerns two fun-loving garbagemen, longtime friends whose major ambition is to earn enough money collecting trash to open a store that caters to surfers. Clowning their way through their daily grind, Carl Taylor (Charlie Sheen, Estevez's real-life brother) and James St. James (Estevez) get their kicks by harassing a pair of bicycle-riding beach-front policemen who are anxious to pin something on the boys--any misdemeanor will do, just as long as it gives the cops an excuse to haul our heroes to the slammer. Neither Carl nor James is very popular with their boss, who, fed up with their on-the-job antics, assigns his brother-in-law, Louis Fedders (Keith David), a Vietnam vet, to ride along with the boys as their supervisor. What should pop up in one of the large trash cans but the body of Jack Berger (Darrell Larson), a corrupt city councilman and mayoral candidate who made the mistake of double-crossing an even more corrupt corporate bigwig (John Getz). Unknowingly, James has contributed to the politician's death. The previous evening, from the rear window of his apartment, James witnessed Berger's physical abuse of his attractive campaign manager (a badly miscast Leslie Hope) and responded by shooting the councilman in his rear end with a pellet gun. However, that is the last James is to see of his "victim" until Berger's corpse is discovered in the trash, whereupon the film turns into a game of hide-and-seek, with James, Carl, and Louis trying to keep the cops from finding the body while the trio tries to solve the murder.

At its best, MEN AT WORK is charming nonsense for undiscriminating audiences, yet it would be unfair to dismiss the film as a waste of time and energy. Its pacing is excellent, and though its lowbrow entertainment values are of questionable merit, filmmaker Estevez nevertheless demonstrates a flair for comedy. Someday he's going to be a director to be reckoned with; regrettably, that day hasn't arrived. Despite its ample flaws, MEN AT WORK is never boring and often is a lot of fun; however, it would have benefitted from the pruning of a few of its misfired visual gags, particularly those involving excrement. And don't expect any profound messages about toxic waste or our polluted environment--they've all been lost in the shuffle in this would-be high-level farce. That Stewart Copeland's above-average score provides many of MEN AT WORK's most enjoyable moments is indicative of the downward slide the film takes after the discovery of the politician's body. (Profanity, violence, adult situations.) leave a comment

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Men At Work
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