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Film review: Men At Work

Published: Friday, Aug. 31 1990 12:00 a.m. MDT

Emilio Estevez didn't learn much from his first writing-directing extravaganza, the inappropriately titled "Wisdom."

Movies can rip off other movies and still maintain their own vision — as with "Darkman." But there has to be some sense of logic at work, even if it's in the film's own universe. There needs to be a motivational force that allows us to freely suspend disbelief. In the case of comedy, that can be as simple as being funny enough to get away with something.

"Wisdom" was a variation on "Bonnie and Clyde" but was just too full of plot holes and silliness to be believed.

And Estevez's latest writing-directing effort, "Men at Work," has much the same problem. It's just too stupid to be acceptable on any level. And it's an appallingly unfunny as a comedy.

The plot combines elements of quite a few other, better movies — most prominently two Alfred Hitchcock films, "Rear Window" and "The Trouble With Harry."

Or maybe Estevez was thinking of "Stakeout" and "Weekend at Bernie's."

Whatever.

Estevez and brother Charlie Sheen star as garbage collectors who share a route and are best buddies.

Both are portrayed as aimless layabouts who may never grow up and whose free time consists of surfing, playing practical jokes on another pair of garbage collectors (most of which involve human waste) and, in Sheen's case, spying on a woman who lives in the apartment building across the street.

One night the prominent local political figure the woman works for is murdered in her apartment. The boys don't witness it exactly, but they become implicated when they find the body the next day on their route. And they just happen to be in the company of a Vietnam veteran who suffers from psycho flashbacks. (The latter character is played by Keith David, who was with Sheen in "Platoon." An in-joke, perhaps?)

Rather than call the police, they drag the body around with them all day and on into the night. This eventually leads to Sheen romancing the woman across the street and all three getting involved with killers who are into toxic waste pollution. (Nothing like including an environmentally conscious message in a gallows comedy.)

As usual, Estevez and Sheen display some natural screen charisma. And while they seem to have a fundamental understanding of comedy, the movie is slowly paced, the gags are not timed well and in many scenes Sheen seems to be waiting for a cue.

In addition, the characters are inconsistent, the plot is just too preposterous, and as the film progresses it becomes more and more lethargic.

"Men at Work" will be a painful experience even for fans of the stars.

It is rated PG-13 for violence, profanity and vulgarity.