Men at Work (1990) – Emilio Estevez

Emilio Estevez writes, directs, and stars alongside his brother, Charlie Sheen, Leslie Hope, and Keith David in a goofy comedy that allows Estevez to give nods to other films, like Rear Window and his own Stakeout.

It’s silly, not entirely engaging, and it seems Estevez, even in his own films, likes to chew some of the scenery. In fact, almost everyone seems to be chewing the scenery in this film, except for Hope who tries to play it straight, or as straight as the script will allow her.

Estevez and Sheen play James and Carl, two garbage men in Southern California who seem happy to goof off on the job and imagine owning a surf shop. When their antics get them saddled with a slightly unbalanced vet, Louis (Keith) as an observer, the trio find themselves quickly caught up in an increasingly bizarre scenario – they’ve found the dead body of a political candidate who was murdered for incriminating evidence he possessed about some off shore toxic waste dumping.

Pursued by a pair of inept killers, and a pair of co-workers who are attempting to up their prank war, the trio gets mixed up with Susan (Hope) the campaign manager who may actually have the evidence to put Potterdam (John Getz) away.

While there is a sense of fun to some of the film, and Estevez clearly loves film with the way he’s attempting to frame his shots, and execute his nods, the film never completely finds its feet.

Its fun to see the brothers working together and there’s a sense of camaraderie between them, and all the fun little asides and escapades work to fill out the world the characters live in, but the lack of a solid narrative throughline causes the film to lack any real punch when it gets to its supposedly thrilling climax.

But I wanted to like it. Estevez and Sheen are fun, Keith looks like he’s having a great time, and Hope is a wonderful actor (and a great director in her own right). Not to mention that the film boasts a score by Stewart Copeland, and a pretty sweet soundtrack on top of that.

The other reason I really wanted to like it was that when it hit video a pair of friends of mine really enjoyed it, and would often reference it and have a laugh together over it. Perhaps if I like it foo then I could share in some of that laughter. But I’m sorry to say, it just didn’t do anything for me.

I wanted to enjoy it, but it never quite hooked me in.


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