Real Men (1987) / Comedy-Action
MPAA rated R for PG-13 for violence, some suggestive humor and language
Running time: 85 min.
Cast: James Belushi, John Ritter
Cameo: Barbara Barrie, Dyanne Thorne
Director: Dennis Feldman
Screenplay: Dennis Feldman
James Belushi (About Last Night, Trading Places) stars as Nick Pirandello, a crude smart-ass that just so happens to be one of the country's top CIA agents, who is ordered to recruit a mild-mannered suburban insurance salesman father, Bob Wilson (Ritter, Hero at Large), a lookalike for a recently iced agent, to join him on a secret mission that may have interplanetary implications that may result in the end of the world as we know it. But Bob is such a sweet-natured man, he needs a crash course in toughening up to the task, which Nick must do in order to achieve the mission's success. Meanwhile, Bob thinks Nick is off his rocker, particularly when he begins talking like the case involves aliens from outer space.
Dennis Feldman, screenwriter and producer for the equally zany The Golden Child, directs for his first and only time this odd comedy that missed its mark during its brief theatrical release in 1987, only to gain a very mild following, as most offbeat comedies do, through repeat showings on cable. Feldman stays in one gear throughout, which is to try to elicit laughs through being just nutty enough to keep the plot from becoming too predictable, not an easy feat for a film that follows a buddy movie plot.
The casting of Belushi is perhaps the film's biggest detriment, as he tries his best to crib off of the smarmy smart-alecky charm of Bill Murray. He's affable, but lacks Murray's snidely charismatic ability to like him more for being one step smarter than the people he mocks, mostly because he appears to talk as if in a perpetual aside to himself, rather than interacting directly with the world around him. Ritter fares better in a more familiar role, though his genial presence is still lacking the ability to sell such ambitiously off-the-wall comedy to the mainstream viewers who may enjoy his work.
There is an audience for this kind of film, but it is a small one, namely, people who think that things are funnier the wackier they get, and the energetic infectiousness carries them to perpetual giggles throughout. For example, there is a random scene where the duo is ambushed in an alley by a group of CIA agents dressed up as clowns so they won't be recognized. In another, Bob is seduced by an older cougar (Thorne, Ilsa She-Wolf of the SS) in Nick's mother's (Barrie, Breaking Away) home, later revealed to be Nick's father after plastic surgery. It's not funny because it's witty, but because it is so stupid, you might just laugh.
Most will not be amused, though Feldman's script is good enough to think that it could be solid with the right cast and a better director to keep it all together. Unfortunately, B-list comedy actors and a first-time director aren't quite able to deliver consistency in tone or to garner comedic momentum. But, for those who are in the rare mood for a low-rent, left-field comedy full of silly, throwaway moments, it might be that guilty pleasure you're seeking.
©2012 Vince Leo