Easy Money/Men At Work (James Signorelli, 1983/Emilio Estevez, 1990) Shout Factory have taken to partnering up odd forgotten movies into unexpected double bill Blu-rays as of late and have delivered one of their oddest and best pairing this week in this disc featuring Easy Money and Men At Work. Both are distinctly 80s comedies (even though Men At Work was released in 1990) that require approximately zero brain power to enjoy, yet succeed off of their tastefully profane senses of humour and some pretty impressive casts. Don’t get me wrong, neither of these movies is anything resembling a classic, but there are also far worse ways to kill an afternoon and it’s safe to say neither title would have ever found their way to Blu-ray were it not for the good folks at Shout Factory showing an interest.
Easy Money was one of the first cinematic vehicles created for the late, great Rodney Dangerfield and boasts a pretty straightforward concept for the comic to do his thing. Dangerfield stars as a walking collection of one-liners and bad behaviour who is forced to give up all of the vices in his life in order to inherit his mother-in-law’s vast fortune. Yep, pretty standard dumb comedy stuff and none of it matters much. It takes a third of the running time for that set up to even be established because the movie is really just a joke factory. Written by Dangerfield, a few of his regular comedy partners, and National Lampoon’s PJ O’Rourke and directed by longtime SNL filmmaker James Signorelli, it’s clearly the project of a group of talented joke-writers tossing every funny idea they have against the wall and seeing what sticks. Given that the cast includes the likes of Joe Pesci and Tom Noonan (as well as Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dangerfield’s daughter and cult comic Taylor Negron as her racial stereotype husband), there’s talent bursting at the seems to deliver those jokes. It’s a pretty sloppily made movie, but one that works more than it fails for lovers of filthy comedy and Rodney’s particular brand of vulgar one-liners. For better or worse, this it’s likely Dangerfield’s best movie after Caddyshack and Back To School, so anyone with a sweet tooth for his wily ways really needs to check it out.
Next up comes Men At Work, Emilio Estevez’s directorial opus starring himself and Charlie Sheen as a pair of wisecracking garbage men who get in over their head. When the movie focuses on character comedy, it’s actually pretty amusing. Estevez’s stoic deadpan and Sheen’s patented kindly perv routine bounce off each other nicely and while Emilio is no master director he can handle the requirements of a big dumb studio comedy easily. The movie spirals out of control in the last act like so many 80s buddy comedies, somehow thinking that the audience will be interested enough in a tedious thriller/action plot to give up on jokes. Still when the movie is on point there are some definite high points, especially from the great Keith David who deadpans his way through ridiculous lines like the “sacred nature of another man’s fries” so goddamn well that it’s a shame he didn’t get more comedic roles in his career.
Both movies have been transferred to HD well by Shout. Neither one of them is a visual stunner, so it’s not as if the movies play differently thanks to the added vibrancy and detail of Blu-ray. Yet at the same time, these movies have been pretty tough to track down in the past and always made their way to homevideo on the cheap. So getting to see them look like actual movies is a pleasant surprise. Neither one of these flicks is worth racing out to find, but combined on the same disc by Shout Factory like this is a different story. You’ll get two amusing and underseen 80s comedies for the price of one that are actually worth your time. That ain’t bad.